Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

I welcome the staff of the House, the Minister, an tAire Stáit and Deputies. I wish them all a good, diligent and, most of all, pleasing day's work. I remind all that the time for each question is six and a half minutes. A Deputy has 30 seconds to introduce the question and the Minister has two minutes to respond. Then there is an initial supplementary question of one minute's duration, to which the Minister has one minute to respond, and a final supplementary question and a final opportunity for the Minister to respond. I am very anxious we stick to the timeframe. I will let Members know when the time is up in order that we can proceed to have as many questions as possible answered in the Chamber.

Criminal Law Review

Jim O'Callaghan


1. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the review into the conduct of rape trials that he announced in June 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49980/18]

I will abide by the Acting Chairman's instruction. Last June the Minister directed that there be a review of the way in which rape trials are conducted in this State. He sought this review in the aftermath of a very prominent trial that took place in Northern Ireland. He made the good decision to select Dr. Tom O'Malley to conduct the review. Has the review been completed, where is it and when will it be published?

The review is at an advanced stage and nearing completion. It is vitally important that victims of sexual assault feel able to report matters to An Garda Síochána. It is equally important that complainants in sexual assault cases are spared any unnecessary distress in the investigation and prosecution of such offences and cases.

As Deputy O'Callaghan noted, a review of protections for vulnerable witnesses in the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences is well under way. The review will examine the entire legal process surrounding sexual offences, from the initial reporting of an offence through to the end of any court proceedings. The review concerns in particular the treatment of complainants and vulnerable witnesses throughout this process.

Terms of reference for the review have been published. The review is examining the adequacy of the mechanisms available in law and in practice to protect vulnerable witnesses in the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences, including access to specialist training for An Garda Síochána, members of the Judiciary and legal professionals dealing with sexual offences; practical supports for vulnerable witnesses; the provision of additional legal supports to witnesses during court processes; measures in place to protect vulnerable witnesses during evidence; and restrictions on attendance by members of the public at, and media reporting on, trials of sexual offences.

The working group is having regard to research published in this area, submissions from victims' organisations, representatives of which I have met, and individuals and will carry out consultations with relevant stakeholders, including the legal professional bodies.

The impetus for this review arose from a round of consultations I had with non-governmental organisations, NGOs, in April of this year. I met representatives of NGOs, including Rape Crisis Network Ireland, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, One in Four and the National Women's Council of Ireland and I acknowledge their submissions and their assistance on this matter.

The Minister will have an opportunity to come back in.

The Government needs to strengthen public confidence in the prosecution of rape and other sexual offences. Unfortunately, it is the case that some damage has been done to public confidence in these very important prosecutions. The Government needs to concentrate on a number of specific areas. First, we in this House and the Seanad introduced a new definition of "consent" last year. This needs to be further advanced in order that the public be made aware of it. Second, we in Fianna Fáil put forward in legislation the proposal that we should have a system whereby when complainants make complaints, they are given some support by way of a solicitor funded by the State and available through the auspices of, say, the local rape crisis centre, which could advise them as to what will be involved in making that complaint and in the trial process. Very many complainants find the process harrowing. Obviously, any criminal trial will be an adversarial process and will be difficult for individuals, but we can provide greater levels of support. I ask the Minister to consider this in the review.

I thank the Deputy for his co-operation.

I agree with the bulk of what Deputy O'Callaghan has to say and acknowledge his expertise in this matter. I am very keen to listen to what all Deputies have to say on this important issue because it is essential we have appropriate legal protections available to complainants. I acknowledge again the work, assistance, guidance and leadership of many of the non-governmental organisations on these important issues and thank them for their input. It is expected that the working group, or the review group, to which Deputy O'Callaghan referred earlier, will provide me with a final report early next year. I do not wish in any way to pre-empt the outcome of the review but I look forward to its recommendations and would be happy to share its contents at a very early date with Members of the House and perhaps the justice committee.

There are certain steps the Government can take that would make it easier for complainants. For instance, the Minister was recently on television with Leona O'Callaghan, a complainant and a victim of serious rape who deserves to be commended on coming out and speaking publicly about it. What she said was the most harrowing aspect of her time before the courts was the length of time it took for her case to come before the courts. She said it took four years. The State can deal with this factor. We can speed up the process of the investigation and indeed the prosecution of these offences.

We can better resource the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions so that files can be considered and decisions can be made more promptly. A complainant, and indeed an accused, should not have to wait for a number of years before a decision is made as to whether or not there will be a prosecution. A trial is a difficult process. We have to try to make it easier for complainants while not interfering with the fact that there is a presumption of innocence and that an individual can only be convicted of a criminal offence if it is proven beyond all reasonable doubt.

I am concerned about the specific issue of delay and the time lapse from the date upon which a complaint is initially reported to the matter appearing in court. This is an issue that is being looked at by the review group, and I do not wish to pre-empt its findings, but I want to acknowledge that there have been significant improvements in the manner in which victims are treated within the criminal justice system. The improvements include the facilities in place for victims in courts. It is absolutely essential to ensure that those people, women and vulnerable witnesses in particular, who have a complaint to make have confidence in the system and that they get the distinct feeling that the system and the State is very much on their side. I acknowledge the importance of the standard courthouse design guide which improves facilities for complainants and vulnerable witnesses. I also acknowledge the protections available through the Legal Aid Board, for example, which provides advice and guidance to vulnerable witnesses. I look forward to further engagement, when we will have more time to discuss these important issues.

Direct Provision System

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire


2. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans for the direct provision model going forward; and if he will discuss recent events regarding new centres. [49877/18]

The issue of direct provision is once again in the public eye. I will take this opportunity to condemn entirely the quite disgraceful arson attack that took place in Moville. Having said that, while the issue is in the public domain and is being discussed, it is my view that direct provision is a deeply flawed and broken model. It effectively warehouses those seeking asylum in this country for prolonged periods of time. It is neither sustainable, efficient, affordable nor humane, and it is time for the Government to move beyond that model, end direct provision and take an alternative approach. I will elaborate on that, and am happy to engage on the issue.

Since 2015, this Government has transformed the system known as direct provision and will continue with this programme of reform. At a time of serious pressure in the accommodation market it is important to note that any person who presents himself or herself seeking international protection will immediately be offered shelter and a range of supports. Since Ireland opted into the EU's recast reception conditions directive, this has all been placed on a statutory footing ensuring such services are provided as of right.

The improvements to living conditions for applicants for international protection have been significant over recent years. These include the implementation of self or communal catering arrangements in a number of accommodation centres. As a result of this initiative, over 1,500 residents in five centres has now moved to the independent living model. In parallel with the delivery of these changes, a number of other accommodation centres are providing self-catering facilities with fresh food provided by either the contractor or the residents themselves. In total over 2,900 residents in the centres are no longer under the direct provision model as originally set-up, and further progress will be made in this area.

In addition, there have been significant improvements to recreation opportunities, such as the provision of outdoor sports pitches, including all-weather facilities, as well as the introduction of teenagers rooms in centres to provide social areas for this age group. Friends of the centre groups have also been established in each centre. This initiative aims to bring residents, community and voluntary groups together with a view to increasing integration opportunities and providing for the development of greater community linkages with the residents and the centre.

Following the McMahon report, a standards advisory group was set up in 2017. The work of this group is to build on the recommendations of that report and to develop a set of standards for accommodation provided for those people seeking the protection of the State. The standards will meet the standards set out in the recast reception conditions directive and the European Asylum Support Office, EASO, guidance on reception conditions. Operational standards and indicators will also take account of national developments in the provision of services to those in the protection process. They will take due cognisance of the responsibility to promote equality, prevent discrimination and protect the human rights of employees, customers, service users and everyone affected by policies and plans as defined by the public sector equality and human rights duty. A working document has recently issued for widespread consultation.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The decision to opt-in to the directive is a significant and positive measure, not only in addressing the matter of labour market access, but also extending to children’s rights, rights for unaccompanied minors, vulnerable people, new appeals processes, healthcare and education provision. In addition, any complaints about accommodation and related matters can be made to the Ombudsman and Ombudsman for Children as appropriate.

We have already introduced far-reaching and important reforms to the overall system and this process will continue as we strive to make further improvements in the future. The nature of international protection is that it is demand led and accordingly the State must provide sufficient accommodation to meet that demand. This process is underway with the aim of meeting both short and medium-term requirements.

I have previously indicated that Ireland, unlike most other European countries, has no NGO run centre. I take this opportunity to reiterate to civil society, including to approved housing bodies, that we would welcome an expression of interest from them to offer to provide such reception facilities. My officials have begun to explore with civil society what might be possible in this regard.

With regard to recent events, the Minister and I have already condemned in the strongest possible terms the recent arson attack in Moville. There is no place in a civilised society for that type of behaviour and it does not represent the views of the vast majority of decent people who recognise the need to offer assistance and welcome for those in need of international protection.

While I acknowledge movement on certain issues including the right to work, although I am of the view that it is not entirely perfect, there are still very significant issues. Direct provision is a model that has been criticised roundly by NGOs and the public at large as being far from fit for purpose, particularly for families. I fear that in future years we will hear many stories about it and will look back upon this episode with great regret. We also have to confront the fact that it is very bad value for money. This substandard and inhumane accommodation has cost the taxpayer €1.25 billion since 2001. To house a parent with two children costs the State €40,000 per year in direct provision. Would it not be not only far preferable from a human rights perspective to locate those seeking asylum in directly provided accommodation rather than by contract through the private sector? This could be done through a non-profit housing association. People could have own-door accommodation rather than dormitory-style accommodation. They could then be encouraged, when they are able, to seek their own accommodation, and be provided with the means to do so.

It is completely unacceptable that the Members are continually breaching the rules they themselves have set. I am not specifically referring to Deputy Ó Laoghaire. It is happening all the time. Time is being wasted and people who are waiting to have their questions answered are missing out. I am asking every side to adhere to the times allocated.

I have previously indicated that Ireland, unlike most other European countries, has no NGO-run centre. I take this opportunity to reiterate to civil society, including approved housing bodies and others, that I would welcome any expression of interest from that cohort that would offer to provide reception and housing facilities. There is no blockage there. Officials have begun to explore with civil society organisations what might be possible in this area. A value for money and policy review was carried out in May 2010 on the whole issue of a reception and integration agency and an accommodation programme and it was found that it provides the best value for money. It was a really comprehensive study, and I invite the Deputy to read it, if he has not already read it, and perhaps he would come back to me with his views on it. It found that: "[alternative] options would be significantly more expensive than direct provision and concluded that the use of direct provision has proven to be the correct choice in providing for the accommodation needs of asylum seekers." That study was carried out in 2010.

On the suggestion that there could be a State building programme, it should be noted that over the longer term the number of asylum seekers has varied widely, from as few as 1,200 in the 2000s to 1,500 in other years. Any system of accommodation must be flexible to cater for wide variations in demand.

In the long run the value for money aspect would change substantially because the property or asset would be permanent rather than something that is constantly renewed and paid for. Tendering does not suit that kind of process. The State should intervene directly and seek to provide permanent accommodation. Acting in conjunction with NGOs or housing associations should be an option on the table.

It is fair to say that communities that have been identified as locations for direct provision centres have been very welcoming, and that is very positive. However, some of the challenges faced by residents of those communities should be identified. Moville is ten hours, travelling through the Six Counties, which is not allowable, from Dublin. Kenmare is probably an overnight trip. It is possible to travel to Lisdoonvarna in one day, involving a very short period of time in Dublin. Mount Trenchard does not even have public bus access. People have to be in Dublin for interviews, appeal hearings and renewals of certificates. This is not an acceptable situation. As much as possible should be brought to the direct provision centres, but the Department should also directly provide transport for the residents.

We are very much aware of the issue of transport to Dublin. With that in mind, my Department has agreed with a contractor to arrange overnight accommodation and comfort breaks for those travelling to Dublin from the accommodation centre in Sligo. We will also source overnight accommodation in Dublin if required. I have also requested that the Department examines the logistical and resource implications of business being carried out at the remote centres.

It would mean that rather than asylum seekers having to travel to Dublin, officials would travel to the centres. The Deputy is right in that regard.

I join with the Deputy in condemning in the strongest terms the recent arson attack in Moville. There is no place in civil society for that type of behaviour. It does not represent, as he rightly said, the views of the vast majority of decent people who recognise the need to offer assistance and support to those seeking international protection.

I draw the Deputy's attention to the value for money report that examined the direct provision system. It found it was not up to speed with respect to value for money. The Value for Money and Policy Review of the Asylum Seeker Accommodation Programme was a comprehensive and impressive report carried out by the RIA in 2010.

Garda Training

Jim O'Callaghan


3. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the roll-out of new specially trained Garda units to handle cases involving vulnerable witnesses such as child abuse and sexual crimes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49981/18]

Every Member of the House is aware that being a member of An Garda Síochána is a demanding and specialist job. One day of the week gardaí can be asked to investigate issues pertaining to financial crime. On other occasions, they can be asked to investigate issues concerning child or sexual abuse. I will ask the Minister about the latter group. It was announced recently specialist groups in An Garda Síochána would be rolled out to deal with vulnerable witnesses. What is the status of that roll-out? When will they be up and running?

I acknowledge the importance of appropriate expertise in An Garda Síochána as its members undertake important work on a daily basis and, in the issue raised by Deputy O'Callaghan, work of a sensitive and personal nature. The setting up by the Garda Commissioner of the divisional protective services units is one of the actions outlined in the second national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. The strategy, in accordance with programme for Government commitments is a whole-of-government approach, involving seven Departments and a number of State bodies, including Tusla and An Garda Síochána.

A key element of the strategy was the recent enactment of the Domestic Violence Bill 2018. Under the existing Garda reform programme, divisional units of the Garda national protective services bureau are being rolled out across the country in two phases. The bureau and its divisional units are tasked with improving services to victims, improving the investigation of sexual and domestic violence incidents and identifying and managing risk. Phase 1 of the roll-out has been completed with divisional units established and working in three areas, Dublin metropolitan region west, Cork city and Louth.

I strongly welcome the important statement by Commissioner Harris this week at the launch of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre annual report on his commitment to the continued roll-out of the divisional protective services units. I am confident that under his leadership and stewardship, there will be rapid progress in the delivery of these important units.

Following an evaluation of the pilot, the next phase will see an additional six divisional bureaus established in Dublin metropolitan region south central, Waterford, Kerry, Kilkenny-Carlow, Limerick and Galway before the end of 2018 with the objective of extending them to all remaining Garda divisions before the end of 2019.

I had the pleasure of being at the launch of the Rape Crisis Centre's annual report and I had an opportunity to listen to Commissioner Drew Harris. I welcomed what he said. He gave a commitment that there would be a roll-out of the divisional protective service units in all 29 Garda divisions. It is important to note that taking evidence or a statement from a victim of child abuse or a complainant in a rape or sexual abuse case is a complicated matter that requires expertise, sensitivity and training. That is why I very much welcome the establishment of these units. Unfortunately, there have been reports in recent weeks that gardaí are being told they cannot take part in specialist courses due to budgetary constraints. That is of severe concern to members of An Garda Síochána but also to the victims of such crimes and complainants who wish to come before the court. Will the Minister give us assurance that funding will be provided and that it will be ring-fenced for these vital units?

I acknowledge the importance of the specialist training to which the Deputy refers. I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that all Garda personnel receive training in the investigation of incidents considered to be domestic abuse in all its forms with additional training provided to gardaí who have been selected for duties as detectives. Further and more specific training has been developed by the director of training with the senior management team at the Garda national protective services bureau for training to be provided to personnel selected for duty within the divisional protective services units where the roll-out has taken place. This has commenced in the three divisions I mentioned in Louth, Cork city and Dublin metropolitan region west. I am keen to have all the Garda divisions involved in the process by the end of next year. I acknowledge the importance of the recommendations in the recently published report by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, placing an emphasis on the need to support victims of crime and the need for the gardaí to have an appropriate level of training.

We do not just have to read the report that was published recently by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland; we can read the reports of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate and the Policing Authority, which have criticised the low numbers of specialist child interviewers within An Garda Síochána. It is a difficulty and problem that exists within the force. We keep making laws in this House and in the Seanad, which make the law more complicated. Gardaí have to investigate any breaches of the law. It needs to ensure that they are adequately trained to deal with legitimate complainants who come forward using those laws. That is why it is so important to ensure funding is ring-fenced for these units. I welcome that the units will be rolled out in the 29 Garda divisions but I am also conscious of what has been said by members of the Garda Representative Association, GRA, who stated they need to ensure there is a proper professional national training plan to deal with front-line members of An Garda Síochána. It is not appropriate to put a young garda who is not adequately trained before complainants in such cases.

The Deputy makes a reasonable point. I acknowledge an increase of 8% in the Garda Síochána Vote in the recent budget. There is €1.7 billion available to the Garda Commissioner to engage in the type of activity he believes is important to ensure the issues raised are dealt with. I am informed that all Garda personnel receive training in the matter of domestic abuse. I acknowledge the importance of the pilot areas. Induction training has been provided for personnel in these units. A briefing is being provided to all appropriate State agencies beyond the Garda Síochána. The training referred to by the Deputy includes specific training in the investigation of sexual crime, online child exploitation, domestic abuse, human trafficking, children in care who are reported missing and sex offender management. I look forward to ensuring that all divisions of An Garda Síochána have the appropriate units within the timeframe envisaged, which is 12 months from now.

Asylum Seekers

Eamon Ryan


4. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of Syrian refugees accepted as part of the agreement reached with the European Union; and the position Syrian refugees are at in the integration process. [49977/18]

I am keen for an update on the numbers of people we have accepted under the relocation and resettlement strands of the UN and EU resettlement programme for refugees from Lebanon, Greece and Italy. What is the process when those people arrive here? Is the State successfully meeting our objectives for integrating and assimilating? It is important that the Government gets it right. I am keen for an update from the Minister of State.

On 10 September 2015, as part of Ireland’s response to the migration crisis in central and southern Europe, the Government established the Irish refugee protection programme. Under the programme, the Government committed to accept up to 4,000 people, mostly Syrian, into the State through a combination of the EU relocation mechanism, established by two Council of the European Union decisions in 2015 to assist Italy and Greece, and the UNHCR-led refugee resettlement programme, which is focused on resettling refugees from Lebanon.

Ireland agreed to opt in to Council of the European Union decisions 2015/1523 and 2015/1601 which allocated the number of asylum seekers that was to be relocated to each member state participating in these decisions.

Ireland agreed to accept 2,622 persons under these decisions. As it was not possible to operationalise the commitment in respect of Italy, which numbered 600 persons, the Government agreed to increase the number of refugees it would accept under the resettlement programme. This includes Syrian refugees who had been given temporary asylum in Lebanon.

We committed to accept 1,040 programme refugees under the resettlement strand of the programme. A total of 928 people have arrived, 875 of whom are Syrian, and 113 people will arrive in mid-December 2018. My officials are working with the relevant international bodies to ensure that refugees selected during a mission to Lebanon in June 2018 will arrive soon thereafter.

The Government has pledged to take a further 945 programme refugees from Lebanon or Jordan by the end of 2019. A further mission to select 231 refugees was carried out in Lebanon in October 2018. This mission completed our pledge to the EU for 2018. Two further missions to select 600 persons will take place in 2019.

Ireland's EU relocation programme concluded in March 2018. Overall, 1,022 people, 959 of them Syrian, arrived safely from Greece and work continues on sourcing housing in communities throughout Ireland.

As of 27 November, 287 Syrians, including Irish-born children, were living in emergency response and orientation centres.

A key step in the integration of refugees is moving them to permanent housing. The Deputy will appreciate that housing falls under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. However, to be of assistance to the Deputy, I will set out the general processes that apply in the Irish resettlement model.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The Irish refugee protection programme, IRPP, which falls under the ambit of the office for the promotion of migrant integration, OPMI, within my Department has a co-ordinating role in respect of all matters related to the settlement of refugees.

Resettlement in communities is co-ordinated by inter-agency working groups, chaired by the relevant local authority and with members from relevant agencies such as the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Tusla, An Garda Síochána, the Education and Welfare Service, the education and training board and the IRPP. Once a family is resettled in a community, an implementing partner procured by the local authority provides appropriate services for a period of 12 to 18 months. The standard model is now focused on an 18-month period. The implementing partner plays a critical role in ensuring the success of each resettlement through their expertise in community integration and relevant supports. The funding for the implementing partner is provided by the IRPP and the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), both managed under the auspices of my Department.

The implementation of the programme requires a high level of co-ordination among service delivery agencies at both national and local level. Service provision is mainstreamed and all the main statutory service providers such as Government Departments, the HSE, Tusla and local authorities are represented on the national task force which oversees delivery of the programme. The programme is co-ordinated overall by the IRPP, but service provision remains the responsibility of the relevant statutory entity.

A total of 1,486 Syrians have been housed throughout the country and are accommodated in local authority housing across 18 counties.

Overall, 1,690 refugees - Syrian, Palestinian and Iraqi - have been housed by local authorities and the Irish Red Cross under the programme. This figure includes Irish born children. In terms of all refugees who have arrived under this programme almost 85% of persons have been housed.

The Irish Red Cross is also managing an aspect of the programme to secure accommodation pledged by members of the public. This is largely being deployed to meet the needs of single persons, as few accommodation options exist within the local authority sector for this cohort. To date the Red Cross have sourced accommodation for 96 beneficiaries in 11 counties.

I welcome the fact that the Minister of State has gone back to Lebanon to look for an additional number of refugees mainly from Syria, but also Jordan, where I understand conditions are particularly harsh for refugees. That is a welcome initiative.

Is the stream of refugees we were due to take from Italy closed off now? Is that finished? I do not know whether the Minister of State is in contact with his colleagues from Italy and elsewhere. Given the political situation in Italy, it is interesting that the country with perhaps the most difficult political issue with migration and refugees at the moment seems to be the one that has failed to relocate refugees.

Second, how we integrate refugees once they are here is critical. There is concern about the numbers in emergency accommodation and, while we have a housing crisis, it is critically important that in the processing of people, once they come here, they are not held in long-term hotel or other emergency accommodation and are settled in houses.

What is the Minister of State's expected timeline on that? Even in broad figures, rather than going down to the minutiae of numbers, when does he think there will be 4,000 refugees here? How long will it take to get them housed?

We were unable to arrange with Italy to bring refugees here because the Italians would not allow us to carry out security checks on their territory. We tried hard but were not successful in doing that, although we wanted to.

A total of 1,486 Syrians have been housed throughout the country and are accommodated in local authority housing across 18 counties.

Overall, 1,690 Syrian, Palestinian and Iraqi refugees have been housed by local authorities and the Irish Red Cross under the programme. This figure includes Irish born children. Almost 85% of refugees who have arrived under this programme have been housed.

The Irish Red Cross is also managing an aspect of the programme to secure accommodation pledged by members of the public. This is largely being deployed to meet the needs of single persons, as few accommodation options exist within the local authority sector for this cohort. To date, the Red Cross has sourced accommodation for 96 beneficiaries in 11 counties.

The Deputy asked about integration and much focus is given to integration and helping people learn language and integrate into communities. Communities are welcoming Syrian refugees throughout the country and that is of benefit.

We also have made significant funding available. I do not have the time to go into that detail now, but I can provide it to the Deputy if he so wishes later.

The Minister of State could continue to provide as much detail as possible because it is in everyone's interest that this works well. Within those figures, over the next five years, it would be good to see the levels of language ability and whether there has been success in bringing the level of understanding and use of English up. It would be interesting to see figures on the level of work and assimilation into the education system. There is an urgency for us to get that right. Tús maith leath an oibre. We need to start on the right foot in getting children and adults into education quickly, getting people into work as quickly as we can, and getting people out of emergency accommodation and into housing to ensure they integrate well.

It is important that the Minister keeps his attention, focus and, if necessary, budget on these matters because we need to get this right for the confidence of our people, for the respect of those who are coming, and for other people who may come in the future, so we learn how to do this well.

I agree with the Deputy and there is a focus on integration and inclusion of refugees. I visited Donegal last week and met some Syrian families there. Children are going to school, and parents are learning English and working and so on. A lot is happening.

We also mobilised EU funding under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund to provide supports, through local authorities, to refugees. Local authorities play a critical role in ensuring the successful integration of refugees through the provision of housing and implementation of a process carried out by the implementing partner, with expertise in community integration and relevant supports. This programme of implementation of integration requires a high level of co-ordination among service delivery agencies at both national and local level. Service provision is mainstreamed and all the main statutory service providers such as Departments, the HSE, Tusla and local authorities are represented on the national task force that oversees delivery of the programme. The programme is co-ordinated overall by the IRPP but service provision remains the responsibility of the relevant statutory entity.

The Deputy is correct that it is important we get integration right and I thank him for his support on this. We are working hard on that, with the various bodies, and there is support given for up to 18 months to the refugees to help them integrate and it is working well.