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. Details of the duration of stay by residents in asylum accommodation centres are shown in RIA's monthly reports published on its website - www.ria.gov.ie. The latest published report is December, 2013. At the end of 2013, RIA was accommodating 4,360 persons, a decrease of 481 residents (10%) over 2012. This was the 5th straight decline in a row. There has been an overall decline of 37% (2,642 persons) in the period end December 2008 to end December 2013 in the numbers being accommodated by RIA.
The Direct Provision system facilitates the State in providing full board accommodation for those seeking protection or the right to remain in the State. It allows the State to do so in a manner that facilitates resources being used economically in circumstances where the State is in financial difficulty. There are no workable cheaper alternatives to the direct provision system. A key finding in the 2010 Value for Money Report on the Direct Provision system was that if we were operating a system which facilitated asylum seekers in living independent lives in individual housing with associated social welfare payments, aside from the asylum 'pull factor' towards the State it would clearly create, the cost to the exchequer could be double what is currently paid under the direct provision system.
I remain committed to reducing the time persons spend in the direct provision system. The asylum system is in need of reform if we are to achieve this. Work is at an advanced stage for the re-introduction to the Oireachtas of a revised Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill. This is pursuant to the current Government policy of reform in this area, which will include a statutory appeals system and set out rights and obligations in a transparent way.
The new legislation should substantially simplify and streamline the existing arrangements for asylum, subsidiary protection and leave to remain applications. It will do this by making provision for the establishment of a single application procedure, so that applicants can be provided with a final decision on all aspects of their protection application in a more straight forward and timely fashion. In advance of the enactment and commencement of the new legislation and with a view to improving processing in the area of international protection, new arrangements have already been introduced for the processing of subsidiary protection applications in light of recent judgments in the Superior Courts.