Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Questions (156)

Pat Casey


156. Deputy Pat Casey asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to address the number of persons living in direct provision centres nationally; his further plans to cease using hotels as emergency centres; the procedures for residents of these centres to make complaints against operators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40908/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

My Department is responsible for offering accommodation and related services to international protection applicants while their claim for protection is being examined. These services are demand led and generally it is difficult to predict demand far in advance.

I am advised that as of 29th September 2019, 7,462 persons were being provided with accommodation by the International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS, formerly the Reception and Integration Agency) of my Department.

Currently, there are 6,063 persons residing in the 38 accommodation centres located nationwide across 18 counties. As these centres are at full capacity, there are also a further 1,399 applicants residing in 34 emergency accommodation locations in hotels and guest houses.

Every effort is being made to re-accommodate applicants in emergency locations to a dedicated accommodation centre as quickly as possible. My Department is actively working on securing additional capacity, both in its existing centres and through sourcing new accommodation centres.

IPAS has sought expressions of interest from parties who would be interested in providing accommodation and related services to people in the international protection process and has also launched a nationwide, regional tendering process to source new accommodation centres.

In relation to the query about complaints, IPAS has a complaints procedure which is set out in the House Rules & Procedures Booklet for International Protection Applicants. Complaints are made initially to the Centre Manager with a view to informal resolution. If the person concerned is not satisfied with the outcome of their complaint, he or she may make a complaint to the International Protection Accommodation Service who will investigate the matter and take action as appropriate.

In the event that a resident is not satisfied with how his or her complaint is dealt with, he or she has full access to the services of the Ombudsman and Ombudsman for Children. The office of the Ombudsman received 148 complaints about Direct Provision in 2018, 15 of which were upheld.

Separately, certain decisions by IPAS made in line with the European Communities (Reception Conditions) Regulations 2018, relating to material reception conditions and listed in full in Regulation 20, allow for review by a Review Officer, a designated role in IPAS. This review may be further appealed to the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT).