Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (531, 532)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

531. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the cultural liaison service at the Reception and Integration Agency; the NGOs contacted in this regard; the expertise required or criteria applied to be considered for inclusion as a provider of the service; the way in which the service will operate; the way in which persons within the international protection system are to contact the service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34736/19]

View answer

Catherine Connolly

Question:

532. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the range of time, by weeks, that families within the international protection system are being accommodated in hotel rooms in emergency accommodation centres; the steps being taken to ensure that such families' private family life rights are vindicated; the steps being taken to ensure that the rights of children within these families are vindicated; the names and job specifications of the NGOs contracted to provide cultural liaison services in Reception and Integration Agency accommodation including ordinary hotels in which some international protection applicants are accommodated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34737/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 531 and 532 together.

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department is experiencing significant upward pressure on its accommodation portfolio due to an increase in the numbers of persons claiming international protection and a growth in the percentage of protection applicants who require assistance with accommodation.

In order to ensure that the State can continue to provide accommodation for all protection applicants and continue to comply with the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive, which was transposed into Irish law in 2018, RIA has, since September 2018, arranged for the provision of emergency beds where the mainstream accommodation centres were at capacity.

In January 2019, the RIA placed an Expression of Interest for Emergency Bed provision in the national media. Such accommodation involves the use of hotel and guest house accommodation where RIA typically contracts a defined number of rooms within existing commercial hotels/guest houses.

Every effort is being made to re-accommodate residents in emergency locations to a dedicated accommodation centre as quickly as possible. RIA is actively working on securing additional capacity, both in existing centres and through sourcing new centres via a series of regional procurement competitions.

It is not possible to provide the statistics in the manner requested by the Deputy, however the statistics can be provided in a monthly breakdown as detailed in the following tabular statement:

As of 30th July 2019, there are 1,043 people residing in emergency accommodation, which includes 178 children, 334 adult females and 530 adults males.

No. Applicants in Emergency Accommodation

Duration of Stay by Months

385

0>3

402

3>6

139

6>9

117

9>12

An exercise is underway in the Department whereby certain emergency accommodation locations are being designated specifically as family accommodation and others are being designated as being more suitable for single adults. The designated family locations have been selected on the basis of physical environment, location and access to school places. Families are allocated individual en-suite bedrooms and/or apartments to provide privacy and to facilitate family life to the greatest extent possible during these temporary arrangements.

In June, the Department requested quotations for a cultural liaison service from three Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in both the Dublin and North East regions. Each of the NGOs have experience of advocacy, migrant rights and working with disadvantaged communities.

The Jesuit Refugee Service Ireland (JRS) was recently appointed to provide the services to persons seeking international protection currently availing of emergency accommodation in the Dublin region, and the appointment of an NGO to provide a similar service in the North East region will be finalised in the near future. My Department then intends to seek quotations from suitably experienced NGOs to provide assistance to those in emergency accommodation in the remainder of the country.

In the Dublin region, JRS proposes to hold an initial introductory meeting in each of the emergency accommodation locations, where representatives of the NGO can introduce themselves and explain the assistance/services that are on offer to persons being accommodated there. Clinics will been held in each location twice a month following that initial meeting. The types of service JRS representatives will provide include, but are not limited to, assisting persons with access to other public services and with applying for medical cards. In addition, representatives of JRS will forward details of any queries or complaints to my Department, where necessary for appropriate follow up.