Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Questions (212)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

212. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the questions raised regarding a centre (details supplied) for asylum seekers; the action he will take in response to the concerns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53705/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am aware of a report regarding the experience of residents within the accommodation centre referred to by the Deputy. 

I met with the NGO that commissioned the report and I discussed its findings with it.  The report is also being considered by my officials. 

All complaints regarding the operation of an accommodation centre are fully examined.  I am pleased to say that the vast majority of centres are working very well.   

In August, Minister Flanagan and I published new National Standards for accommodation centres. These Standards were developed by an Advisory Group including representatives from UNHCR Ireland and the NGO sector. They provide a framework for the continued development of person-centred, high-quality, safe and effective services and supports for residents living in our accommodation centres. Their purpose is to improve the quality of care and ensure consistency across all accommodation centres. They are being implemented through a tender process that has been running in all regions this year.  Tender specifications include “independent living”, where people and families can cook their own meals, as one of the main criteria for awarding contracts to accommodation providers.  The tender process will affect all contracted accommodation centres in 2021.

There is currently a comprehensive system in place for the inspection of all accommodation centres.  As part of this process unannounced inspections are carried out.  The accommodation centre referred to has been inspected 4 times to date in 2019 and 3 times in 2018. No major health and safety matters have been brought to my attention based on these inspections.

In addition to these inspections, regular clinics are held on site at all international protection accommodation centres by officials in my Department  at which residents can raise any concerns regarding their accommodation.  There is also a clearly defined complaints mechanism for residents as well as recourse to the Ombudsman’s Office.

Officials in my Department have and will continue to take into consideration all information brought to our attention and will, through the inspection process, ensure that all contractors are operating their centres in accordance with contractual obligations.

I should also like to inform the Deputy that the provision of services and supports for residents is kept under review. In that regard, a high level interdepartmental Group, established in my Department, is currently reviewing the implementation of the State's legal obligations under the EU Directive (2013/33/EU) including access to work and the services offered to applicants while their applications are being considered. In addition, an Advisory group, chaired by the former Secretary General of the European Commission, Dr. Catherine Day will advise on the development of a long-term approach to the provision of support including accommodation for people in the international protection process.  

Finally, I would also say that the instances of racially aggravated attacks, mentioned in the report as occurring outside the centre, are abhorrent and are not representative of the views of the vast majority of Irish people.  Indeed, any such incidents should be brought to the attention of An Garda Síochána.