I propose to take Questions Nos. 802 and 803 together.
The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) has arranged the provision of emergency accommodation for international protection applicants since September 2018 due to the increasing numbers of people arriving in the State seeking international protection. RIA had reached full capacity in its centres at that time.
As of 14 July 2019, RIA is accommodating 981 people in 29 emergency accommodation locations across the country. RIA will continue to use emergency accommodation for as short a time as possible and is actively working on securing additional capacity, both in existing centres and through sourcing new centres via a national procurement process.
RIA has a legal duty to protect the identities of persons in the international protection process and must be mindful of the right to privacy of applicants when responding to specific queries. As such, the Department can confirm that temporary emergency accommodation is being provided in counties Cavan, Clare, Dublin, Meath, Monaghan, Laois, Leitrim, Limerick, Offaly, Louth, Tipperary, Wicklow and Wexford. The Department cannot however confirm the specific emergency accommodation locations or exact family configuration as this could lead to the identity the applicants becoming known.
Washing facilities are available at every emergency accommodation location. In emergency accommodation locations, most rooms have en-suite bathrooms. A small number of premises provide communal bathroom facilities.
While an international protection claim is being examined, the State offers accommodation and related services to anyone who accepts that offer. This includes all meals, medical care and utilities. A weekly personal allowance is paid to each person and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection cover exceptional needs. The Department of Education and Skills provides school places for children resident in the centres and children also have access to the free pre-school scheme, the Early Childhood Care and Education programme. The HSE provides mainstreamed health services to residents. It is a whole-of-Government approach to supports and services for applicants.
Residents in emergency accommodation are offered medical screening funded and managed by the HSE located at the Balseskin Reception facility for the purpose of assessing recipients who have just arrived in the State. In addition, arrangements are in place in various parts of the country to offer this service to those who do not avail of it in Dublin. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection assist in the process of linking residents with local Social Welfare officers and a similar policy is in place with the Department of Education to assist with educational needs. Staff from RIA have also arranged to meet with residents in these accommodation settings to address any concerns that they may have. RIA is also seeking to contract a Visiting Support and Cultural Liaison Service from the NGO community to assist those residents during their time in emergency accommodation.
Residents in emergency accommodation can address any issues directly to RIA. They may also contact the Ombudsman or the Ombudsman for Children if any issue is not resolved to their satisfaction. Additionally, RIA has facilitated visits by the Office of the Ombudsman to a number of emergency accommodation locations to meet with residents.
Due to significant demand, RIA has sought to identify additional accommodation by publishing expressions of interest in the national press as the current accommodation portfolio will not meet the increasing demand.