The report to which the Deputy refers is an unpublished report which I understand to be in draft form conducted for the women's health unit of the Northern Area Health Board on behalf of the three area health boards in the eastern region. Neither my Department nor the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), which is responsible for meeting the accommodation needs of asylum seekers under the system of direct provision in place since April 2000, had any knowledge of the report prior to publication of elements of it in a newspaper article.
It appears that the findings of the report in respect of the provision of accommodation and other facilities for asylum seekers relates to the period prior to the commencement of direct provision when such matters were the responsibility of health boards. Accordingly, I am not in a position to comment on matters over which I have no responsibility or jurisdiction. I should also state for the sake of clarity that the reference in the report and in the subsequent newspaper article to unidentified accommodation used by the Department to accommodate refugees does not appear to be correct. One facility which comprises a complex of apartment blocks in Cork city was contracted in July 2000 by the RIA for accommodating asylum seekers. This facility, which is used principally for housing single and asylum seeker couples, has all appropriate facilities, including cots, for the very small number of infant children accommodated there.
As regards the general situation in regard to facilities in use by the RIA, the following is the position. To meet the accommodation and related needs of asylum seekers 76 accommodation centres together with nine reception centres located in 24 counties are in use by the RIA. Each property is inspected by officials from the RIA prior to its use and proprietors must sign a comprehensive memorandum of agreement drawn up by the RIA which stipulates the stringent requirements for the provision of accommodation and ancillary services to asylum seekers.
In the case of State owned properties such agreements are entered into with management companies. Under the terms of these agreements proprietors and management companies are required to ensure that the premises complies and operates in accordance with all statutory requirements of local authorities and other agencies in relation to planning, building by-laws, bedroom capacity, food, food hygiene, water supply, sewage disposal, fire precautions and general safety.