Wednesday, 26 June 2019
Department of Justice and Equality
Direct Provision System
40. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality his views on reports that residents at a direct provision centre were moved to accommodate a wedding; if inquiries will be made as to whether this has happened at other direct provision centres; and if contact with the centre responsible has been made. [26862/19]
48. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he is taking to secure appropriate long-term accommodation for asylum seekers following the situation in County Monaghan in which over one hundred asylum seekers were removed from their accommodation and transported to County Wexford to facilitate a private function. [26852/19]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 48 together.
The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department has been encountering significant upward pressure on its accommodation portfolio. This pressure has increased further in recent months with an increase in the number of persons claiming international protection and a growth in the percentage of protection applicants who require assistance with accommodation. There are upwards of 700 persons residing in accommodation who have permission to remain in Ireland or who have received international protection status.
In order to ensure that the State can continue to provide accommodation for all protection applicants while experiencing a shortage of accommodation nationwide, RIA has, since last September, been forced to arranged for the provision of emergency beds where the mainstream accommodation centres were at capacity. This was done by contacting a large number of accommodation providers and also through a national print advertisement seeking expressions of interest for providing emergency accommodation on a short term basis. RIA is hoping to increase the capacity of the mainstream system by opening new centres.
In December 2018, the Reception and Integration Agency of my Department was informed that residents in emergency accommodation had been removed from their accommodation to facilitate a private function. On behalf of my Department, I wish to state that this was wholly inappropriate and that the Department had no prior knowledge of this decision. RIA addressed the issue directly with the service provider at the time and received assurances it would not happen again. I can assure Deputies that RIA remains in regular contact with emergency accommodation providers and in regular contact with residents through on-site clinics. I am satisfied that this was an isolated incident.
In order to secure suitable accommodation centres for those in the international protection process, my Department is in the process of tendering for suitable premises throughout the country. In relation to Monaghan, a tender covering the border region will be advertised later this year.
43. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he has taken with the Coroners Service, An Garda Síochána and the various companies that run the direct provision centres to ensure the circumstances regarding the death of a person (details supplied) are never repeated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26864/19]
I wish to state once again my Department's sincere regret at the circumstances which led to a person being buried without her friends being informed. It is clear that there was a breakdown in communication in this particular case, which the Department very much regrets.
Where a person dies while they are being provided with accommodation by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department, RIA works closely with the centre manager to assist the family in accessing the supports by the State, and to ensure that any residents affected by the death are assisted in accessing services that can support them. All deaths and serious incidents that occur within accommodation centres provided by the Department are referred to the Gardaí as a matter of course and the Gardaí in turn refer all deaths to the local coroner's office.
In light of what happened in this particular case, RIA is examining its protocols around fatalities in order to ensure that this situation does not arise again, and in particular to ensure there is a formal record of the interest of the Department in knowing any proposed arrangements for inquest or burial.
In an effort to better understand the communications between all parties concerned, a senior official from the Department of Justice and Equality spoke to the Galway West coroner on the 7 June 2019. I should say that the coroner noted the efforts that had been made to identify the person's next of kin.
While thankfully, the occurrences of deaths where the deceased remains unidentified, unclaimed or where no next of kin is identified, are very rare, the Department will take all possible steps to ensure that this outcome is avoided in future and that friends who have expressed an interest are properly informed through appropriate communications with the coronial service and by liaising with other relevant agencies.