Tuesday, 3 February 2004

Ceisteanna (324)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

453 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent of his Department's negotiations with property owners in Kilkenny regarding the provision of accommodation for use by the RIA; if these negotiations included the owners of the Ormonde Hostel; if a formal response was ever issued to the property owners involved in the negotiations; the individual cost of keeping a person in private accommodation such as a hostel as against the direct provision of such accommodation by the State; if he intends to sell the properties not in use which were purchased by the State for his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3033/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

At the time of the establishment of the Directorate for Asylum Support Services in November 1999, which was subsequently subsumed into the reception and integration agency, the RIA, advertisements were placed in national newspapers seeking properties throughout the State which could be used for the provision of full board accommodation to asylum seekers under the system of dispersal and direct provision which was about to be introduced. A large volume of responses to the advertisements was received, including the offer of three separate domestic dwellings in rural areas of County Kilkenny.

Such responses were screened initially by the appropriate local authority and, in general, facilities with a capacity of fewer than ten persons or which were located in isolated rural areas with limited infrastructure were not considered further. The three houses offered in County Kilkenny fell into this category.

The Ormonde Hostel in Kilkenny was originally engaged in late 1999 on foot of an informal arrangement between the then Eastern Health Board, the South Eastern Health Board and the proprietors, for the provision of self-catering accommodation for asylum seekers. Arising from the introduction of direct provision in April 2000, the RIA entered into negotiations with the proprietors of the hostel to provide direct provision accommodation at this location. Following the conclusion of these negotiations, a contract was entered into by the parties and the hostel remains in use up to the present time.

The average weekly cost to the RIA of maintaining a single asylum seeker in hostel accommodation outside Dublin on a self-catering basis is €130. In addition, such an asylum seeker also receives supplementary welfare allowance of €134.80 weekly which is payable by the Department of Social and Family Affairs on the same basis as applies to the indigenous population. The average cost to the RIA of maintaining a single asylum seeker in direct provision accommodation outside Dublin is €189 per week. In addition, such an asylum seeker also receives supplementary welfare allowance of €19.10 weekly which is also payable by the Department of Social and Family Affairs and is abated to take account of the benefits of the full board and ancillary services funded by the State.

Properties which have been purchased by the State and are not in use are currently the subject of litigation. As I have previously indicated, it would not be appropriate for me to comment until these proceedings have reached a conclusion.