Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Questions (379)

Matt Carthy


379. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on whether the outsourcing to private operators of the housing of persons seeking international protection is not satisfactory; if he will work towards a public model of delivery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9205/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the State is obliged under domestic and international law to examine the application of anyone who arrives at the State to claim international protection. While we are examining their application, all applicants are offered accommodation and other supports such as healthcare, education for children and a weekly payment for personal expenditure. The provision of accommodation is demand-led, based on the number of applicants arriving to claim international protection and requiring accommodation. 

As demand requires, my Department issues public calls for expressions of interest in putting forward suitable premises and supplying the capacity and supports to run accommodation centres to meet international standards. These calls are not confined to the private sector. It is open to all to engage with us. Equally, any Tenders issued for the same services are open to all. Any proposal will be assessed according to the published criteria.

Both Minister Flanagan and I have at all times made it clear that I would welcome proposals from NGOs or not for profit entities. 

Minister Flanagan and I have established an Expert Group on the Provision of Support, including Accommodation, to persons in the International Protection Process, which is led by Dr. Catherine Day, former Secretary General of the European Commission.

This Expert Group has the following role:

- To advise on the development of a long-term approach to the provision of supports including accommodation to persons in the international protection process;

- To identify good practice in European countries in the provision of supports to persons within the international protection process, particularly dealing with variations in demand; and

- To set out a process for achieving the long term approach to support persons in the international protection process. 

It builds on the work of the Working Group chaired by Judge Bryan McMahon. Their Report, published in June 2015, made substantive recommendations on improvements necessary within the international protection process and the Direct Provision reception system.

Since then, significant improvements have been made to the system in recent years including access to the services of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children; agreed National Standards for accommodation providers; the introduction of labour market access; and the continued roll-out of self-catering facilities for residents, which are now available to more than half of all residents.

Dr. Day and her Expert Group are expected to report before the end of the year.

An Interdepartmental Group, chaired by my own Department, was also established to ensure that all Government Departments are proactively delivering on their responsibilities to international protection applicants, and the short-to-medium term options which could be implemented to improve the system. Its Report is ready for submission to the incoming Government.

I look forward to the outcomes of work of these two Groups, which will allow for consideration of the next steps required in the ongoing reform process.