I propose to take Questions Nos. 497 to 499, inclusive, and 535 together.
The Direct Provision system is managed by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department. For the most part, this represents a cashless system with the State assuming responsibility for providing suitable accommodation for asylum seekers on a full board basis. RIA currently provides full board accommodation and ancillary services to 4,376 persons in 34 centres across the State.
In relation to queries such as these, it is important to state that RIA is keen to provide as much detail as is practicable on the system which it is charged with operating. Extensive statistical information is on its website - www.ria.gov.ie - including, on a monthly basis, details of the number of persons residing in each direct provision centre. The December 2013 monthly report has just been published on the website.
RIA also publishes its Annual Reports on the website, covering the years from 2007 to 2012 inclusive. They provide a variety of additional information, including a breakdown of the adults and children in each direct provision centre and the length of time persons, overall, have been residing in the direct provision system. The 2013 Annual Report is currently being compiled and will be published before the end of March, 2014.
In advance of the 2013 Report being published, RIA has published on its website preliminary statistics showing, inter alia, the length of time spent overall in the Direct Provision system by residents as at 31 December, 2013. This, along with the published monthly statistics, provides most of the information sought in these questions. As things stand, RIA does not publish statistics on the length of time spent by persons in individual centres or in three monthly increments. That level of detail would be considered unnecessary as residents are not allocated to or between centres based on time spent in the system. Therefore, it is statistically likely that the overall breakdown shown in the annual and monthly reports would apply broadly to residents in each centre. Nonetheless, the provision of the additional statistics sought in these questions will be considered in the context of the 2013 Report currently being compiled.
RIA itself has no function in determining whether someone should stay or not in its accommodation. Its function is to provide accommodation and ancillary services to those who have sought international protection and who otherwise have no means of supporting themselves.
I have no desire to have applicants remain in the system any longer than the minimum period it takes to process their case. However, ultimately a balance has to be struck between maintaining the integrity of the State’s protection and immigration systems and the case put forward by the individual applicant all of which must be considered within the legal requirements and obligations. In the first instance requirements are set-down in primary and secondary legislation and these requirements are constantly evolving taking into account interpretation of the law by the Courts at both national and EU level.
I acknowledge that the length of time that residents spend in Direct Provision is an issue to be addressed. An amended Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, which I will introduce should substantially simplify and streamline the existing arrangements for asylum, subsidiary protection and leave to remain applications. It will do this by making provision for the establishment of a single application procedure, so that applicants can be provided with a final decision on all aspects of their protection application in a more straight forward and timely fashion.
Pending the enactment and commencement of the new legislation and with a view to improving processing, I recently signed into law a Statutory Instrument to introduce new procedures for the processing of subsidiary protection applications by the Offices of the Refugee Applications Commissioner at first instance and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.