Thursday, 3 February 2022
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
142. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the progress that has been made in relation to implementing the report of the advisory group on the provision of support including accommodation to persons in the international protection process. [4895/22]
160. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the progress made to date on the implementation of the White Paper to End Direct Provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5450/22]
172. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if he will expedite the implementation of measures identified in the Report of the Advisory Group on the Provision of Support including Accommodation to Persons in the International Protection Process (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5411/22]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 142, 160, 172 and 176 together.
This Government is committed to ending Direct Provision and replacing it with a new International Protection Support Service that has respect for human rights at its core. Almost one year ago, I published a White Paper to End Direct Provision and to Establish a New International Protection Support Servicesetting out how we intend to achieve this. I am pleased to provide the House with an update on our progress so far.
Under the new system set out in the White Paper, international protection applicants will no longer spend long periods living in congregated settings. Instead, following an initial four month stay in a Reception and Integration Centre, they will move to independent accommodation – in the White Paper this is referred to as ‘Phase Two accommodation’ - in houses and apartments in towns and cities across the country. This represents a major change and my Department is taking the necessary steps to put this new accommodation model in place.
I recently approved an ownership model for this accommodation, under which either Approved Housing Bodies or my Department will be the designated owners of the properties acquired under the new model.
The City and County Management Association has developed and approved a Local Authority allocation key. This key provides for a distribution of Phase Two accommodation across the country and is assisting this Department and the Housing Agency in identifying suitable properties for purchase for Phase Two accommodation.
Again working with the Housing Agency, my Department has recently begun to acquire Phase Two accommodation. I am pleased to say that, under our current rate of progress, we plan to have some of this accommodation ready for applicants to move into later this year. Draft criteria for selecting applicants to move into this accommodation have been presented to the Programme Board for consideration.
With respect to integration, the House will be aware that the White Paper commits to the principle of 'integration from day one' for all international protection applicants. To this end, my Department is currently developing an Integration Programme. In collaboration with the Local Authorities, we are designing the supports that will be needed at a local level, and the structures required to co-ordinate and deliver them. This will expand the current model of interagency working groups and resettlement and intercultural workers that is in place for the Irish Refugee Protection Programme. The aim is to establish a permanent integration system at local level that will provide support both to programme refugees and to applicants for international protection.
A key enabler for applicants to move into the community and live independently will be the availability of an income support payment. A detailed policy paper for this payment has been drafted and the focus is now on establishing the structures to put the income support payment in place.
Implementation and Monitoring
I have appointed a Programme Board to oversee the transition to the new model. Membership of this board includes officials from relevant Government Departments and agencies, a representative with lived experience of International Protection, representatives of non-governmental organisations working in the area of asylum seeker and refugee integration, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and independent experts in housing and change management. To date, the Board has met on five occasions and its next meeting is scheduled for 17th February.
A three-person External Advisory Group (EAG) has also been established which will provide independent oversight of the reform process contained in the White Paper. Its members are Catherine Day, David Donoghue, and Lorcan Sirr. The EAG has met on two occasions to date.
A dedicated Transition Team has been established in this Department to drive the implementation of the reforms set out in the White Paper. Ending Direct Provision and putting in place the new system with its focus on human rights, on not-for-profit delivery, and on integration from day one, requires a whole-of-Government approach. The Transition Team is therefore working closely with key stakeholders across Government to plan, design, and implement the changes described in the White Paper.
The Transition Team is currently developing a detailed implementation plan. This plan sets out the approach that will be taken to ensure that the new system of international protection is in place by 2024. Currently inputs to this plan are being sought from other key stakeholders who have responsibility for delivering services to International Protection applicants.
Recommendations of Report of the Advisory Group on the Provision of Support including Accommodation to Persons in the International Protection Processhelped to inform the development of the White Paper and served as the basis from which we are building the new model.
143. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of refugees accepted from the European Union evacuation missions from Afghanistan into the international protection system here; the number of Afghans who have applied separately for international protection since January 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5499/22]
I can confirm that 532 letters of waiver have been granted, which has led to 425 arrivals. This includes 41 refugees accepted from the European Union evacuation missions from Afghanistan.
In relation to the number of Afghans who have applied separately for international protection since January 2020, I would advise that you direct your query to the Minister for Justice who can assist with this matter.