Written answers

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Department of Justice and Equality

Refugee Services

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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270. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality to address the concerns raised by a person (details supplied) regarding the protection and reception services provided for refugees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2287/16]

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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Persons coming to Ireland under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme as announced by the Government in September 2015, will be offered full board, accommodation and other supports, for example health and education, and will reside in the newly established Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres (EROCs) for a limited period of time. They will be either persons coming from Greece or Italy under the EU Relocation measures or programme refugees coming to Ireland from the Lebanon and Jordan under the UNHCR-led resettlement programme. Persons arriving under the Relocation measures will have their applications for asylum processed in an accelerated procedure of approximately 8-12 weeks. Once refugee status has been granted, these persons will be eligible to enter employment and to access other supports on the same basis as nationals. Persons coming to Ireland under the resettlement programme will have programme refugee status on arrival. Persons accepted here under these programmes will also have an entitlement to apply for family reunification, if they wish to do so, thereby further increasing the numbers accepted by Ireland.

In 2015, 176 refugees displaced by the Syrian conflict were admitted to Ireland from Jordan and Lebanon under the UNHCR-led resettlement programme. It is planned that an additional 120 refugees will be admitted from Lebanon in early 2016, with the remaining cases admitted on a gradually increasing phased basis thereafter. The first transfer of persons to Ireland under the EU Relocation measures is expected to take place from Greece in the coming weeks.

Following publication of the Report of the Working Group on Improvements to the Protection Process, including Direct Provision and Supports to Asylum Seekers, the report was referred by Government to the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy and Public Service Reform. One of the key recommendations in the report which goes to the heart of the length of time people spend in Direct Provision is the early enactment of the International Protection Bill and in that regard, the Government has brought forward as a major priority legislation to provide for the introduction of a single applications procedure for international protection. This reform will simplify and streamline the existing arrangements and provide applicants with a final decision on their protection application in a more straightforward and timely fashion. This is aimed at addressing one of the key issues identified in the report, that is, the length of time persons remain in the Direct Provision system. The Deputy will be aware that the International Protection Bill was signed into law by the President on 30 December, 2015. Work has since commenced on the implementation of the single procedure which is expected to be introduced in the coming months. The Act provides for the transfer of responsibility for the processing of protection applications from the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) to my Department. I will establish an International Protection Office in the Department for this purpose. The Act also provides for the establishment of an independent International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT), which will provide an effective remedy against decisions taken on applications, including a decision to refuse. Existing best practice will be protected and embedded within the new regime. The International Protection Act alone responds to 26 of the recommendations of the Working Group report.


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