I propose to take Questions Nos. 598 and 606 together.
I am aware of the petition campaign to end the system of direct provision for accommodation and other services to international protection applicants who requires such supports.
The Programme for Government contains a commitment to ending the direct provision system and replacing it with a new International Protection accommodation policy, centred on a not-for-profit approach. The Government has also committed to the development of a White Paper which will set out how this new system will be structured and the steps to achieving it.
My Department is currently developing the White Paper which I expect to publish by the end of the year. The recommendations of the Advisory Group will inform the White Paper. Consultations are currently underway and include discussions with the relevant Government Departments and agencies, the Offices of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, relevant NGOs and housing bodies and representatives of residents of direct provision centres.
The replacement of the direct provision system is complex. It is recognised by all involved that it will take some time. In order to meet our legal obligations to provide accommodation and other support services for protection applicants, existing accommodation centres will continue to operate in the short to medium term. ? However, in doing so we will be focusing on the provision of own-door accommodation and facilities to allow for independent living (access to cooking and laundry facilities and communal family areas outside bedrooms) and greatly reducing any need for the use of hotels and guest-houses as an emergency measure.
I can assure the Deputy that the Government is committed to the replacement of the Direct Provision system of accommodation provision and other aspects of our international protection system that may be required so that we will have a system in Ireland that exceeds the standards required by the Reception Conditions Directive and will compare favourably with the best systems of our EU partners.