Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Questions (235, 247, 278, 279)

Joan Burton

Question:

235. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the practice of private third party operators selling pre-booked appointments for the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, INIS, at Burgh Quay, Dublin 2; his views on the appropriateness of such practices; his plans to prevent such practices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51098/19]

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Joan Burton

Question:

247. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to websites (details supplied) that offer pre-booked appointments at the INIS registration office at Burgh Quay, Dublin 2, for fees ranging from €20 to €50; his views on such practices; the steps being taken to stamp out these practices and to improve the in-house appointments procedure at Burgh Quay; if a Garda investigation is under way including for the possible commission of the offence of trading in influence under section 6 of the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51250/19]

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Catherine Martin

Question:

278. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he is taking to address the severe and ongoing shortage of available appointments for persons seeking to renew their visas with the INIS. [51667/19]

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Catherine Martin

Question:

279. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the ongoing issue of INIS appointments being sold by third parties online to visa applicants; the measures being taken to prevent the activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51668/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 235, 247, 278 and 279 together.

My Department became aware in September 2018 of customers experiencing difficulties booking registration appointments. Some of these difficulties had arisen because third party agents had been able to secure multiple appointments through the use of automatic software.

A set of software fixes was introduced in mid-September 2018 to prevent this abuse of the system. As far as can be determined, this software update has been successful in preventing the block booking of appointments by third party agents. The system is being regularly monitored in this regard.

However, I am aware that some third party agents continue to book individual appointments with information supplied to them by customers. My Department strongly advises our customers not to provide sensitive personal data to these unregulated agents. Matters pertaining to Garda investigations are a matter for the Garda Commissioner.

My Department will shortly be tendering for a replacement online appointments system, which is being designed to prevent the block-booking of appointments. This new system will also assist in streamlining and improving the current online booking process. As part of the Service Improvement Plan 2018-2020 for Immigration Service Delivery, a number of other options are also being considered with a view to improving customer service and efficiency as well as meeting the growing demand for registration in Ireland.

In the past year, there has been an increased demand for appointments. The Registration Office in Burgh Quay is currently registering more than 500 people every day and is opening every weekend in an effort to meet that demand.