Residency Permits

Questions (338)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

338. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress to date in the determination of an application for residency status and updated stamp 4 in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28016/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that there is no record of a request from the person concerned for permission to reside in the State on Stamp 4 conditions.

I understand that the person concerned was granted permission to remain in the State on a temporary basis on Stamp 1 conditions on 15 January, 2019, for 6 months to facilitate an intended application to the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation for an employment permit. I also understand that if the person concerned wishes to make a further request for permission to remain in the State they may do so by writing to Unit 2, Domestic Residence and Permissions Division, INIS, 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Refugee Data

Questions (339)

Niall Collins

Question:

339. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the commitments made regarding resettling refugees under the various resettlement and relocation programmes; the number of refugees accommodated to date here under the resettlement and relocation programmes in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28035/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

In 2015, as part of Ireland's response to the migration crisis in central and southern Europe, the Government established the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP). Under this programme, the Government committed to accepting up to 4,000 people into the State, primarily through a combination of the EU Relocation Programme and the UNHCR's Refugee Resettlement Programme. The Relocation strand was completed in March 2018 and the IRPP is currently fulfilling its obligation under the Resettlement Programme in Lebanon and Jordan.

Table 1: Commitments and Arrivals as part of the IRPP

Commitment

Arrivals

Remaining

EU Relocation Strand (concluded on 31 March 2018)

1,022

1,022

-

Of which are unaccompanied minors

6

6

-

UNHCR-led Resettlement Strand

1,985

1,309

676

Calais Special Project

41

41

-

Unaccompanied minors: Greece / Malta

60

-

60

Total unaccompanied minors

101

41

60

IRPP Humanitarian Admission Programme 2018/19

530

99

431

Mediterranean search and rescue missions

Adults

54

54

-

Unaccompanied minors

4

4

-

Total from search and Rescue missions

58

58

-

Mechanism as yet undecided

304

-

304

Total IRPP Commitment/Arrivals

4,000

2,529

1,471

To date, a total of 2,529 people have arrived in Ireland under the various strands of the IRPP, 51 of whom are unaccompanied minors. In addition to the above, 5 families (23 people) are due to arrive this week. A further 60 refugees arriving in the coming weeks.

An IRPP mission to Lebanon in March 2019 selected 331 refugees for resettlement to Ireland. A further mission to Jordan later this month will select approximately 300 refugees. This will complete Ireland’s commitment to admit 1,985 programme refugees under the Resettlement strand of the IRPP. The remaining refugees are due to arrive in Ireland during the remainder of 2019.

The IRPP programme also includes the IRPP Humanitarian Admission Programme under which Irish citizens, programme refugees, Convention refugees and persons with subsidiary protection can apply for family members to come to Ireland where those persons are living in the top 10 refugee generating countries. 530 persons are being admitted to Ireland this year under that programme.

Table 2: Persons Accommodated

Accommodated by

Number of persons

Local Authorities

1,942

Irish Red Cross

111

Community Sponsorship Ireland

9

Total

2,062 (88% of all Relocation and Resettlement arrivals resettled)

Of those who have arrived in Ireland to date, 1,942 persons have been provided with permanent housing by local authorities. In addition, 111 persons have been housed in accommodation through the Irish Red Cross. 9 persons are participating in the Community Sponsorship scheme which is an innovative scheme whereby local communities directly support the process of integrating refugees into their communities. Taken together, 2,062 people who arrived under the IRPP have been resettled in communities across Ireland. This represents 88% of the arrivals so far under the resettlement and relocation strands of the programme.

Garda Deployment

Questions (340)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

340. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí attached to each divisional protective services units established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28056/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for managing An Garda Síochána including personnel matters.

Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.

To date, ten Divisional Protective Services Units have been established.  The Garda Commissioner has indicated that it is expected that units will be established in the remainder of Garda Divisions by the end of 2019. The personnel strength of these units is as follows: 

DPSU

D/Sergeants

D/Gardai

Cork City

2

8

Kerry

2

10

Limerick

2

7

Waterford

2

10

Carlow/Kilkenny

2

11

Galway

2

13

Louth

2

12

DMR West Clondalkin

1

9

DMR West Cabra

1

14

DMR South Central

2

15

Garda Deployment

Questions (341)

James Lawless

Question:

341. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number and rank of new Garda personnel appointed to the Naas district in the past three months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28063/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for managing An Garda Síochána, including personnel matters, and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.

I am informed by the Commissioner that the Cohort Model of resource allocation is currently used for the allocation of personnel within An Garda Síochána, including newly attested probationer Gardaí from the Garda College. Using this model, the allocation and transfer of Garda Personnel is determined by a number of factors, including crime and non-crime workload, minimum establishment, population, area, policing arrangements, and operational strategies. When considering the allocation of resources to a Division, comprehensive consultation is carried out with local Garda management during which all factors are taken into consideration.

In relation to the allocation of newly attested Gardaí, it is important to keep in mind that they have a further 16 months of practical and class-room based training to complete in order to receive their BA in Applied Policing.  To ensure that they are properly supported and supervised and have opportunities to gain the breadth of policing experience required, the Commissioner's policy is to allocate them to specially designated training stations which have the required training and development structures and resources in place, including trained Garda tutors and access to a permanently appointed supervisory Sergeant who is thoroughly familiar with their responsibilities under the training programme.

I am further informed by the Commissioner that while not all Garda Stations are training stations it is important to note that the allocation of probationer Gardaí to a Divisional training station facilitates the reassignment of Gardaí to other stations within the Division, if required, by the Divisional Officer.

Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,800 Garda recruits have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, of whom 118 were assigned to the Kildare Garda Division. This year to date, two intakes of probationer Gardaí have attested and been allocated on the 8 March, and the 10 June respectively. Six newly attested Gardaí were allocated to the Kildare Division in March 2019: two to Kildare Garda Station, two to Leixlip Garda Station and two to Naas Garda Station. The allocation of resources within the Division is the responsibility of the Divisional Officer.

The Government has increased the budget for An Garda Síochána to €1.76 billion for 2019, which includes provision for the recruitment of up to 800 Gardaí this year. The Commissioner has now informed me that he plans to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí in 2019 and 600 Garda Civilian Staff.  This Garda Staff recruitment will allow the Commissioner to redeploy a further 500 fully trained Gardaí from administrative duties to frontline policing in 2019.

I believe that the injection of this large number of experienced officers into the field, along with the new recruits, will be really beneficial in terms of protecting communities. This and on-going recruitment will clearly provide the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí to deliver a visible effective and responsive policing service to communities across all Garda Divisions including the Kildare Division.

For more general information on Garda Facts and Figures please see the following link

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/An_Garda_Siochana_facts_and_figures

Money Laundering

Questions (342)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

342. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to update the Criminal Justice (Money, Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28069/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 was most recently updated in November last year by the Criminal Justice (Money, Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Act 2018. The 2018 Act transposed in large part the Fourth EU Anti Money Laundering Directive and also brought Irish law into line with the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force, an international standard-setting body.

The main change brought about by the 2018 Act was the introduction of new requirements around a risk-based approach. This means, first of all, that the businesses concerned (which the legislation calls designated persons), must assess the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing involved in carrying out their business. They must have policies and procedures in place to mitigate these risks. They must determine the risk attaching to each customer or transaction, on a case-by-case basis, taking into account relevant factors. And they must then carry out whatever due diligence measures are warranted by that level of risk. This represents a more targeted and therefore more effective application of measures by the designated person.

The 2018 Act also recognises the reality that many businesses today operate in group structures across borders. It made a number of amendments to the 2010 Act in this regard. The Act expanded the requirements on Irish companies to ensure that their subsidiaries overseas apply high anti-money laundering standards. If a group implements policies and procedures properly, its subsidiaries are not subject to some restrictions that normally apply in respect of high-risk third countries.

The 2018 Act also extended the scope of existing obligations in other ways. For example, some measures which previously only applied to banks, now apply to other financial institutions. There are extra measures that must be applied to the beneficiaries of life assurance policies. Measures applying to politically exposed persons will now apply to those resident in Ireland as well as those resident abroad.

As the Deputy will be aware, of great importance in the global fight against money laundering and terrorist financing is the role of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). The FIU in Ireland is part of An Garda Síochána. It is responsible for receiving suspicious transaction reports from designated persons and analysing them, so that it can be used to combat crime. The 2018 Act expands the remit of the FIU. It requires them to have access to all of the information they need to carry out their functions and allows for cooperation and information sharing between the FIU in Ireland and the FIUs of other Member States.

The 2018 Act also introduced a fitness and probity regime for the owners of private members’ gaming clubs. This change, which transposes a provision of the Fourth Directive, requires both those who hold a directorial function, as well as the beneficial owners of such clubs, to apply to An Garda Síochána or the Minister for Justice for a certificate of fitness. It is now a criminal offence to carry on such activities without that certificate.

In addition to the changes above, the Government also approved the drafting of a further Bill to amend the 2010 Act in January of this year, provisionally titled the Criminal Justice (Money, Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill 2019. The General Scheme for this Bill was published on my Department’s website in January and its aim is to give effect to the criminal justice elements of the Fifth EU Anti Money Laundering Directive.

While drafting work is ongoing, the General Scheme, as published, will amend some provisions of the 2010 Act, and insert others, concerned with:

- the use of virtual currencies for terrorist financing and limiting the use of pre-paid cards;

- safeguards for financial transactions to and from high-risk third countries;

- the scope of designated bodies under the existing legislation;

- enhanced customer due diligence (CDD) requirements;

- the prevention of credit and financial institutions from creating anonymous safe-deposit boxes;

- a Regulation-making power for the Minister which will set out what is considered to be a “prominent public function”.

- a number of technical amendments.

In addition to the ‘money laundering legislation’ above, the Deputy may also wish to note that my colleague, the Minister for Finance, has introduced, and will introduce further, legislation to deal with those elements of the Money Laundering Directives that fall within his policy remit. This includes the establishment of beneficial ownership registers and centralised bank account registers, etc.

Prison Building Programme

Questions (343)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

343. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the length of time the construction of a new female prison in Limerick and a new wing at Limerick male prison will take to complete; if both construction projects have commenced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28094/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by my officials in the Irish Prison Service that a contract has been awarded for a substantial development at Limerick Prison, which comprises the construction of a new wing for male prisoners, a stand-alone unit for female prisoners, staff facilities, a new kitchen, a new visits and reception area, a laundry, and training and recreation facilities. The project also includes the construction of new offices for the Probation Service.

Construction work on the new prison facilities commenced in February this year and is expected to be completed in February 2021. This will be followed by a period of commissioning of the various security systems. It is expected that the new prison facilities will be ready for operational use in the second half of 2021.

The construction of the new prison facilities at Limerick Prison represents a further important milestone in the Government’s commitment to the programme of modernisation of the prison estate.

Visa Applications

Questions (344)

Micheál Martin

Question:

344. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the length of time tourist visas take to process; if it takes longer for particular countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28100/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Decisions regarding the granting or refusal of tourist or visit visas are made in a number of INIS Visa Offices overseas, the INIS Visa Office in Dublin, and at Embassies of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which process certain visa applications under delegated sanction from my Department.

The processing times for visa decisions are published on the Visa pages of each Visa Office and Embassy website. As of 24 June 2019, the Dublin Visa Office was processing tourist/visit visa applications received in Dublin on 10 June 2019. Processing times for other Visa Offices overseas and for Embassies will vary but are generally between 3 and 6 weeks at this time, with many applications processed inside those timeframes, depending on travel dates.

I am also advised by INIS that the visa service is experiencing an increase in the number of visa applications across most categories, in line with increased economic activity generally. Notwithstanding this, processing times are on a par with, and in many cases, better than the same time last year.

The business target for processing 'short-stay C' visas is within eight weeks (current processing time in Dublin for most categories is within four weeks). However, the processing time at each office and location worldwide is determined by a number of factors such as the volume and complexity of applications, whether investigation is required or not, individual circumstances, peak application periods, seasonal factors, and the resources available. While every effort is made to process applications as quickly as possible, processing times inevitably vary as a result.

The Deputy can be assured that every effort is made to keep processing times to a minimum, and a number of measures have been put in place to deal with the increased demand for visas to come to Ireland. This has included the assignment of additional staff to deal with applications, and more generally the streamlining of visa processes where possible. The position in this regard is being kept under review.

The central concern in deciding on visa applications, as with all visa services worldwide, is to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the country's vital national interests by maintaining an effective immigration regime while at the same time facilitating travel for those who meet the criteria. Each visa application is therefore decided on its own merits taking all factors into account.

Naturalisation Applications

Questions (345)

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

345. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of a naturalisation application by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28104/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy.

If she has made an application for naturalisation and sent it through registered post then the applicant should have a registered post tracking number. If the applicant can confirm the registered post tracking number, we can confirm whether the documents have arrived successfully in the INIS office.

It is open to any individual to lodge an application for a certificate of naturalisation if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements as prescribed in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended.

Full details of the eligibility criteria and extensive guidelines are available on the INIS website at www.inis.gov.ie

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and I know the Deputy will appreciate that it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Garda Deployment

Questions (346)

Niall Collins

Question:

346. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will seek the assistance of the Garda Commissioner in respect of the serious concerns of a company (details supplied) regarding drug crime in the area; if the Commissioner's attention will be drawn to the need to assign additional personnel and resources to the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28140/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Government has increased the budget for An Garda Síochána to €1.76 billion for 2019. The Commissioner has informed me that he intends to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí along with 600 Garda civilian staff. The recruitment of these additional resources will allow the Commissioner to redeploy a further 500 fully trained Gardaí this year from administrative duties to frontline policing duties.

As the Deputy is aware, the manner in which the resources of An Garda Síochána are deployed is solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner and his management team. I am assured that An Garda Síochána remains resolute in its determination to act against those within society who pose a significant threat to the welfare and well-being of our citizens and communities.

I understand that an operation involving Gardaí from the Tallaght and Rathfarnham Districts was conducted on Thursday 27 June. The Tallaght Gardaí “day of action” targeted persons who have outstanding warrants in relation to drug offences as well as burglary, theft, road traffic and public order matters. A total of 17 people were arrested.

The Garda Commissioner has confirmed that the Government’s commitment to increase the overall strength of An Garda Síochána to 15,000 Garda members will be achieved by the target date of 2021. The Government supports the Commissioner’s management decision which will ensure that increasing numbers of Gardaí are available for frontline duties in the prevention and detection of criminal activity, whether it be in the area of drug offences or otherwise, in 2019 and beyond.

A core focus of the work carried out by An Garda Síochána is aimed at tackling drugs and organised crime. I have been informed by the Commissioner that the resources coming on stream have enabled him to assign additional resources to the specialist units that come within the ambit of Special Crime Operations, including the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau. The Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau continues to target organised crime groups nationally, including those involved in drug related crime, burglary and related offences. The Bureau provides support to the Gardaí operating at local level.

Garda Recruitment

Questions (347)

Seán Fleming

Question:

347. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of applicants in respect of previous Garda recruitment campaigns that are still being processed in respect of the competitions advertised in December 2013, January 2016 and September 2016, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28151/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware the recruitment to An Garda Síochána is governed by the Garda Síochána (Admissions and Appointments) Regulations 2013. The Public Appointments Service (PAS), on behalf of the Garda Commissioner, manages the initial recruitment stages for selection of Garda Trainees with the final stages of the recruitment process in which candidates are vetted, complete a physical competency test and a medical examination, managed by the Commissioner. I, as Minister, have no direct involvement in the matter.

An Garda Síochána has held six recruitment campaigns since December 2013, including the most recent recruitment campaign, which closed in April. I am informed by An Garda Síochána that there are approximately 46 applicants who are still being processed from the recruitment campaigns referenced by the Deputy.

Subject to final approval by An Garda Síochána, successful applicants from these campaigns are considered first for intakes into the Garda College, in accordance with the candidate's place on the Order of Merit. There is no set time frame for offers to applicants as this is dependent on their files being fully completed and the intake dates into the Garda College. All applicants remain on the panel until such time as they are offered a place in the Garda College, with the exception of those who are deemed unsuitable, fail the Medical or Physical Competence Test (PCT) or withdraw from the competition. 

I would advise any candidate for a position as a Garda trainee to contact the PAS or the Garda Appointments Office, depending on the relevant stage of the application process, if they have any queries in relation to their application.

Garda Training

Questions (348)

Seán Haughey

Question:

348. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason the 2019 budget for Garda training and development and incidental expenses is only €11.527 million compared with the 2018 budget which was €23.079 million; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28165/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation for 2019 of €1.76 billion.  Very significant capital investment is also being made in Garda ICT, the Garda fleet and the Garda estate.  In total, the Garda capital allocation has increased from €61 million to €92 million in 2019, which represents a 50% increase.

In accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as amended, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling the administration and business of An Garda Síochána, including the training of its members and civilian staff. The Commissioner is also responsible for the effective and efficient use of the resources available to An Garda Síochána.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the budget for training and development is no longer included in the budget for incidental expenses. Training and development expenditure is now included under the Garda College subhead.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that the budget for training and development in 2018 was €31.8 million. The budget for training and development for 2019 is €37.6 million, which is an increase of €5.8 million.

Garda Deployment

Questions (349)

Seán Haughey

Question:

349. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí by rank attached to the warrants and summons unit in DMR north Garda division to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28166/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for managing An Garda Síochána, including personnel matters.  

I have asked the Garda Commissioner for the information requested and I will write directly to the Deputy when I receive it.

Road Traffic Offences Data

Questions (350)

Seán Haughey

Question:

350. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of drivers stopped for watching videos while driving; his plans to bring in stronger sanctions to prevent such activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28167/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I have requested a report from An Garda Síochána in relation to the use of a mobile phone while driving. I will be in contact with the Deputy directly on receipt of this report.

Legislative responsibility sanctioning this form of activity would fall to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Asylum Seeker Accommodation

Questions (351)

John Brady

Question:

351. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of asylum seekers, single and family units being accommodated in temporary accommodation in Bray, County Wicklow in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28276/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) has arranged the provision of emergency accommodation for international protection applicants since September 2018 due to the increasing numbers of people arriving in the State seeking international protection. RIA had reached full capacity in its centres at that time.

As of 23rd June, RIA is accommodating 872 people in 28 emergency accommodation across the country. RIA will continue to use emergency accommodation for as short a time as possible and is actively working on securing additional capacity, both in existing centres and through sourcing new centres via a national procurement process.

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of this Department, has a legal duty to protect the identities of persons in the international protection process and must be mindful of the right to privacy of applicants when responding to specific queries. As such, while I can confirm that the Department is using temporary emergency accommodation in Co. Wicklow, RIA cannot confirm the specific emergency accommodation locations or exact family configuration as this could lead to the identity the applicants becoming known. I can however confirm that as of 23rd June 2019 there were 79 people residing in emergency accommodation in Co. Wicklow, this includes family units and single people seeking international.

The Department put out an expression of interest seeking bed and board in hotels and guesthouses on a 12-26 week basis for emergency temporary accommodation for international protection applications. Premises in County Wicklow were sourced on that basis. RIA continues to work to identify additional accommodation centres for new applicants.

RIA is working very hard to ensure that residents in emergency accommodation are re-accommodated in an accommodation centre as quickly as possible.

Asylum Seeker Accommodation

Questions (352)

John Brady

Question:

352. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the details of the contract of the temporary accommodation centre for asylum seekers in Bray, County Wicklow; the timeframe of the contract; the location of the centre; the occupancy of same; the obligations within the contract; the cost of the contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28277/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Since September 2018, the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) has arranged for the provision of emergency beds where the mainstream accommodation centres are at capacity. As of 16th June 2019, a total of 817 applicants were staying in 25 emergency centres.

The locations that are being used for the provision of emergency accommodation have been selected by means of a call for expressions of interest from hotels and guesthouses that was advertised in the national press.

I wish to confirm that a premises in Bray is being used for emergency accommodation and is not a direct provision centre. My Department is working to identify additional capacity within its accommodation portfolio so that the use of emergency accommodation will be reduced and ended, if possible by the end of this year.

The premises in Bray is under contract until the 18th November 2019 for the provision of bed and board for 43 persons. There are currently 31 persons resident there. The contract provides for the provision of bed, breakfast, lunch, dinner and laundry facilities. For reasons of commercial sensitivity, the individual costs of contracts are not made public.

As part of the regional procurement process that RIA is rolling out in 2019, a competition for the Mid-East Region which covers Kildare, Louth, Meath and Wicklow will be advertised in Quarter 3 of this year seeking the provision of accommodation and ancillary services for persons seeking international protection. It would be premature to speculate at this stage what properties will be offered to the Department under this process.

Asylum Seeker Accommodation

Questions (353)

John Brady

Question:

353. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the transition process for moving asylum seekers from temporary accommodation to direct provision; if the person in question is consulted; if they are moved to a location geographically close to the temporary accommodation; the way in which the health and well-being needs of asylum seekers are addressed within this transition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28278/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Since September 2018, due to insufficient capacity within the Reception and Integration Agency's (RIA) accommodation portfolio, RIA has contracted for the use of emergency accommodation in hotels and guesthouses. As of 16th June 2019, a total of 817 applicants were staying in emergency accommodation.

The duration of stay in the emergency accommodation is to be for as short a time as possible prior to being transferred to a contracted RIA accommodation centre when places become available. Family composition, ages of children and medical needs are factors taken into account when allocating to a RIA accommodation centre to ensure that the most suitable accommodation is assigned, notwithstanding the current capacity issues.

When international protection applicants are provided with emergency accommodation, they are advised that this accommodation is on a temporary basis and that they will be moved to a RIA accommodation centre as soon as possible. RIA notify international protection applicants in advance of their transfer to a RIA accommodation centre from temporary emergency accommodation.

Additionally, RIA is liaising closely with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the HSE to facilitate appropriate service provision to them while in emergency accommodation.

International Protection

Questions (354)

John Brady

Question:

354. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if asylum seekers in temporary accommodation are supported to begin the process of applying for refugee status; the average waiting time for process by the RIA of new applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28279/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can advise the Deputy that the State provides support for all protection applicants in making an application for international protection, regardless of their place of residence. There are specific arrangements for unaccompanied minors who are in the care of Tusla who make an application on their behalf.

Applicants are required to attend for preliminary interview with staff of the International Protection Office (IPO). During this interview the applicant will, where necessary and possible, have the assistance of an interpreter. If the person's application is deemed to be admissible, the person is given a questionnaire to complete. All applicants are entitled to free legal aid from the Refugee Legal Service, once they have made an initial application. The applicant will then have a substantive interview after submitting a completed questionnaire to the IPO. The applicant will have the benefit of an interpreter to ensure they can ably communicate their claim to the interviewer.

International Protection

Questions (355)

John Brady

Question:

355. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if children in temporary centres are provided with school placement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28280/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Children of international protection applicants who are residing in emergency accommodation can access school places in local primary and post-primary schools in the same manner as the general population. They can also avail of the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, which is administered by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

While an international protection claim is being examined, accommodation and related services are offered as a whole-of-Government approach to anyone without means. This includes all meals, medical care and utilities. A weekly personal allowance is paid to each person by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and they can also cover exceptional needs. The Department of Education and Skills provides school places for children residents and the HSE provides mainstreamed health services.

Immigration Policy

Questions (356)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

356. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to reduce the income and saving thresholds applying to stamp 0 visas for persons, particularly those from the United States of America, who wish to retire and live here; if the interdepartmental consultations following the review of these criteria have been completed; the reason for the delay in the launch of a new scheme which was indicated in the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 133 of 20 June 2018 would happen in the coming months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28282/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department held a review, including a public consultation, on the issue of non-EEA retirees applying for a permission to reside in Ireland. 

While a draft immigration scheme for non-EEA national retirees was being devised at the time, wider policy matters have meant that the timescale for the launch of the scheme has had to be extended, from those indicated in my reply to Parliamentary Question Number 133 of 20 June last year.   I hope to be in a position to announce the scheme once these matters have been addressed.

Trade Data

Questions (357)

Michael McGrath

Question:

357. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the level of trade between Ireland and Vietnam; her plans to further develop trade links; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27609/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

In 2018, Ireland’s goods exports to Vietnam amounted to €65 million. Ireland’s main exports to Vietnam include medical and pharmaceutical products valued at €18.6m in 2018. Ireland's food exports to Vietnam have grown considerably in recent years. While meat and dairy products are the largest share of this, beverages and seafood also contributed strongly. In 2017 (the most recent year with available figures), services exports from Ireland to Vietnam were valued at €164m. Services imports from Vietnam for the same year totalled €13m. Last year, Ireland imported €167m worth of goods from Vietnam which mainly consisted of clothing, footwear and furniture.

Through the Government’s Trade Strategy, ‘Ireland Connected: Trading and Investing in a Dynamic World ’, we aim by 2020 to increase indigenous exports by Enterprise Ireland supported companies, including food, to reach €26 billion and secure 900 new foreign direct investments. As part of the Government’s Global Ireland 2025 strategy, Enterprise Ireland will open a new office in Ho Chi Minh City this year to support Irish businesses to expand into the Vietnamese market and to take advantage of the new opportunities presented by the FTA.

Negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and Vietnam were concluded in December 2015. On 31 June 2019 the EU and Vietnam signed the Free Trade Agreement along with the EU-Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement (IPA). The FTA will unlock a market with huge potential for Irish and EU firms and includes the elimination of nearly all tariffs (over 99%) on EU exports to Vietnam. 65% of these tariffs will be liberalised at entry into force of the FTA with the remainder phased out over a 10-year period. The FTA also covers non-tariff barriers to trade and other trade related issues such as public procurement, competition, services, investment, intellectual property rights, regulatory issues, and sustainable development. I support the entry into force of the EU-Vietnam FTA so that Irish firms may benefit from the new business opportunities provided for by the Agreement.

Opportunities exist for Ireland to grow exports in dairy products, pork, seafood and alcoholic beverages by taking advantage of reduced tariffs under the FTA. Currently tariffs on EU exports of spirits to Vietnam are particularly high at 48% and will eliminated over a 7-year period following entry into force of the FTA. The elimination of tariffs of 15% on frozen pork products is also significant for Irish producers.

Ireland is an exceptionally open economy and is dependent on international trade and investment as sources of growth. Building new export opportunities for our businesses forms a vital part of Ireland’s enterprise strategy. We favour ambitious and balanced trade agreements, negotiated by the EU Commission on our behalf, which are designed to deliver jobs and growth for the benefit of our citizens. The EU-Vietnam FTA and the EU’s other trade agreements help to open new markets, break down barriers and provide new opportunities for Irish firms.

As part of the St. Patrick’s Day “Promote Ireland” Programmes, Ministerial visits around the world, including Vietnam, were organised to ensure that we use this exposure to maximise the promotion of Ireland's trade, tourism and investment interests.

In a wider context, Vietnam is a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The EU is working towards achieving a region-to-region FTA with ASEAN by first concluding FTAs with individual ASEAN members. The first of these was signed with Singapore in October 2018, the Vietnam FTA is the second, and negotiations for an FTA with Indonesia, the largest county in the ASEAN group, are ongoing. In addition, the benefits of comprehensive EU Free Trade Agreements with third Countries are not solely economic but also involve the establishment of strong lines of communication and areas of common interest with other economies.

Company Closures

Questions (358, 364)

Joan Burton

Question:

358. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to ensure companies have a minimum level of paid-up share capital and reserves which reflects the size of their balance sheet and annual turnover to ensure that if a company ceases to trade, the Exchequer and trade creditors are not left unpaid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28290/19]

View answer

Joan Burton

Question:

364. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to introduce legislation to set the minimum level of paid-up share capital and reserves required by a limited company as a proportion of the annual turnover of the company as a way of preventing companies from ceasing to trade and leaving unpaid taxes and trade creditors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28295/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 358 and 364 together.

While there is a minimum share capital requirement of €25,000 for Public Limited Companies set out in the Companies Act 2014, there are currently no plans to introduce legislation to set the minimum level of paid up share capital and reserves required by a limited company as a proportion of the annual turnover of the company.

Minimum share capital requirements are often cited as a potential method of protecting creditors. However, the money that is paid in as share capital is not required to be kept separate but is mingled with the other funds of the company and/or used by it. Thus, even if minimum thresholds of share capital were to be required, there would still not be a readily available cash fund equivalent to the share capital from which to cover creditors’ claims against the company in an insolvency situation.

Furthermore, a requirement to set share capital and reserves as a proportion of turnover could represent a significant obstacle to the conduct of commerce through company structures and have unintended consequences. If a minimum level were set and a company breached that minimum it could result in the loss of limited liability and force viable companies into liquidation with adverse consequences for employment in such companies. Further, if a company had a poor trading year, the amount of proportionate reserves required would fall in monetary terms as turnover may be reduced but a company’s debts could increase nonetheless.

Limited liability is one of the principal reasons why most businesses decide to incorporate in the first place. The availability of limited liability facilitates entrepreneurship and job creation by allowing entrepreneurs to trade without compromising personal assets. However, the availability of limited liability is a privilege not a right and is subject to safeguards to protect the interests of other stakeholders. The Companies Act 2014 contains provisions in which the separate legal personality of the company may be pierced in certain circumstances to visit liability on persons concerned in the carrying on of the business e.g.:

Section 610 - Civil liability for fraudulent and reckless trading

Section 612 - Misfeasance

Section 722 - Fraudulent Trading.

Section 599 and 600 contain further safeguards as they provide respectively that in certain circumstances a related company may be required to contribute to the debts of a company being wound up, and for the pooling of assets of related companies.

It should also be noted that minimum share capital requirements are stringent in respect of their application to companies which have a director who has been restricted. Section 819(3) of the Companies Act 2014 requires that any company which has a director who is subject to a restriction order must have an allotted share capital of nominal value not less than €500,000 in the case of a public limited company (other than an investment company) or a public unlimited company, and €100,000 in the case of any other company type. These requirements can be difficult to meet. However, perhaps more importantly, the fact that a director is subject to a restriction order can make it much more difficult for a company to obtain credit and as a result, the threat of restriction acts as a powerful disincentive. The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement has extensive powers to investigate and prosecute cases of corporate failure involving directors who act dishonestly or irresponsibly, particularly in respect of insolvency situations.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (359)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

359. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the funding her Department granted the Dublin Port Company in the past ten years to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27488/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

I can confirm that DBEI has not provided any funding to the Dublin Port Company in the past ten years to date.

Ministerial Meetings

Questions (360)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

360. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when she last met the director general of Science Foundation Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27782/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

I meet regularly with the Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson, as does the Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation and Research and Development.

My most recent meeting with the Director General took place on 9 May 2019 in the context of an announcement of renewal of funding to six world class SFI Research Centres. On 5 March 2019, I was briefed by Prof Ferguson on SFI's work plan and proposed funding calls for 2019.