Written Answers. - Asylum Applications.

Conor Lenihan

Ceist:

429 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is the policy of his Department's reception and integration agency, other agencies under the aegis of his Department or local agencies to provide preferential treatment for housing allocation, free or subsidised motor vehicles, or mobile phones to asylum seekers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27449/01]

Conor Lenihan

Ceist:

430 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is the policy of his Department's reception and integration agency, other agencies under the aegis of his Department or local agencies (details supplied) to provide preferential treatment in the allocation of housing and provision of State welfare and other benefits to asylum seekers compared to citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27450/01]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 429 and 430 together.

Asylum seekers are not provided with free or subsidised mobile phones or motor vehicles and there are no plans to introduce concessions of this nature for this cohort. Neither do they have any entitlement to preferential treatment by virtue of their immigrant status in respect of any State welfare benefit schemes operated by the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs and-or health boards.

As a rule, asylum seekers do not have access to local authority housing while their applications for refugee status are being determined. Persons granted refugee status are allowed access to the full range of housing and welfare entitlements applicable to Irish citizens. While it is a matter for individual local authorities to operate schemes in respect of the allocation of housing in their administrative areas, I am not aware of any preferential treatment being accorded to applicants for housing by virtue of their being recognised as a refugee.

For the sake of completeness, I should state that since April, 2000 the basic needs of food and shelter of asylum seekers are met through the system of direct provision rather than through full cash and welfare benefits.

Asylum seekers accommodated in this manner are paid a weekly rate of supplementary welfare allowance which has been reduced to take account of the value of the full board accommodation being provided by the State. This allowance currently stands at £15 per week per adult and £7.50 per week per child.

In general, asylum seekers who entered the State prior to the introduction of direct provision and those removed from direct provision by health boards for medical or social reasons are living in private rented accommodation. Such asylum seekers are in receipt of full supplementary welfare allowance and rent supplement from health boards.