Officials in my Department have informed me that they have been in direct contact with the applicant on a number of occasions in advance of yesterday’s ceremony (9th December). It should be noted that the ceremony on the 9th of December, at which some 2,000 were granted Citizenship was undertaken within a 4-week period as compared to the normal seven weeks’ processing cycle.
Regrettably the applicant was not in a position to attend the ceremony yesterday (9th December). However, officials will be making contact today (10th of December) with the applicant to establish a process that addresses the specific needs of the applicant. As part of the existing processes, applicants are requested to advise officials of any special needs on the day. This process was followed in this case, unfortunately it was not feasible in the instance to agree arrangements in time for the 9th December. However, arrangements will be put in place to address the specific needs of the applicant early in the New Year.
The Department has in place procedures that aimed at ensuring applicants with special needs are offered a welcoming and inclusive experience. Accordingly, a complimentary bus is provided to ferry applicants to and from the venue and the train station. Upon arrival at the INEC applicants with special needs by-pass the queuing system and are seated in a location directly adjacent to the processing area. Those that do not have wheelchairs are provided complimentary wheelchairs. Before the processing area opens up to the main body of applicants, those with special needs are processed first, this ensures an unhurried experience. To help ensure their enjoyment of the event, their guest are afforded the opportunity to be seated with them, this option is not available to the main body of applicants. Where a guest is not present or where the applicant opts not to have their guest seated with them, a member of staff will accompany them to their seat, which is usually situated in rows one and two. A dedicated member of staff is assigned to accompany applicants with special needs to/from the washrooms. At the conclusion of the ceremony the dedicated member of staff ensures their safe exit from the venue.
In conclusion, I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. My officials are currently reviewing this case to ensure that the valuable lessons are gained in how better to support those with special needs. Any such learnings will be incorporated in advance of the next ceremony.