The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers in accordance with the Government policy of direct provision and dispersal. RIA currently provides accommodation to 4,587 persons in 34 accommodation centres across the State. Firstly, it is important to point out that services to asylum seekers in direct provision are main streamed. As such, asylum seekers receive a health service, including mental health services, on the same basis as Irish citizens. This is, in many cases, superior to what it available in their country of origin. Asylum seekers in direct provision first link in with health services when they are temporarily accommodated in a reception centre in Dublin after they first claim international protection. In the reception centre, they are offered medical screening and are linked in with Community Welfare services. Access is also provided to GPs, Public Health Nurses and psychological services. After a period of approximately two weeks, those asylum seekers are scheduled for dispersal to accommodation centres throughout the country, subject to clearance by the HSE Health Centre in the reception centre. If there are particular health concerns, a person may be retained for a period at the reception centre or may be dispersed to specified accommodation centres with access to particular health services. Even after dispersal, further health needs may present. Such cases are reviewed by RIA's internal administrative health unit in conjunction with the local health services to see if any administrative arrangements, transfers etc., can be put in place. RIA has access to an independent medical referee to assist in the assessment of particular health needs.
On a more general level, it is very difficult to get any verifiable data in relation to the mental health of asylum seekers in Direct Provision. Patently, an asylum seeker, having removed himself from the social and family supports he had in his country of origin to live in a communal setting of a direct provision centre with all of the uncertainty attaching to his longer term immigration status, is bound to be under stress to a greater extent than the 'settled' population. The issue of whether poor mental health of some asylum seekers is a function of pre-migration stress, of the stress of the migration itself, of post migration issues, of living in Direct Provision, or a combination of these factors, is a complex matter and as such great caution should be exercised before drawing conclusions. At all events, RIA does not have access, as a matter of course, to a person's confidential medical records. Therefore, the collation of data regarding the number of persons with mental health problems in direct provision is a matter for the HSE.