Question No. 902 answered with Question No. 707.

State Pathology Service

Ceisteanna (903)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

903. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if each deputy State pathologist and assistant State pathologist is supplied with a publicly funded car for work-related business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33306/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Office of the State Pathologist provides independent expert advice on matters relating to forensic pathology and performs post mortem examinations in cases where foul play is suspected. The Office provides a national, 24/7, year round service in Ireland.

A driver and vehicle service is available to the forensic pathologists when they are called to a case outside of Dublin. This service is necessitated by the nature of the pathologists’ work.

A procurement process for this service is held at regular intervals. The current transport provider was selected through a procurement process undertaken in conjunction with the Office of Government Procurement using its National Framework for Passenger Ground Transportation Services for all public sector bodies.

Garda Data

Question No. 905 answered with Question No. 692.

Ceisteanna (904)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

904. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of forensic speech analysists working for An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33307/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I have requested a report from the Commissioner in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy and I will revert to him when it is to hand.

Question No. 905 answered with Question No. 692.

Garda Reserve

Ceisteanna (906)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

906. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the strength of the Garda Reserve in each Garda division on 31 December in each of the years 2014 to 2018 and on 30 June 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33318/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Garda Reserve strength in each Garda Division as of 31 December in each of the years 2014 to 2018, and as of 31 May 2019, can be found at the following link: www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Garda_Reserve.

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that the strength of the Garda Reserve was 491 as of 31 May 2019. It is disappointing that the number of Garda Reserve Members has dropped in recent years. However, both the Government and the Garda Commissioner remain committed to increasing the strength of the Garda Reserve and to that end I have been informed by An Garda Síochána that a class of approximately 100 Garda Reserve recruits commenced training on 23/24 March 2019 at the Garda College, Templemore. This is a positive development and delivers on the target set out under 'A Policing Service for the Future', the implementation plan for the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

An Garda Síochána is currently conducting a strategic review of the Garda Reserve to inform future decisions around the use of the Reserve. This approach is also in line with the recommendation in the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. The Strategy is expected to be concluded shortly and will inform the development of a Reserve recruitment drive by the end of 2019.

Garda Civilian Staff Data

Ceisteanna (907)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

907. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of civilians in the Garda workforce in each Garda division on 31 December in each of the years 2014 to 2018 and on 30 June 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33319/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The number of Garda staff in each Garda Division as of 31 December in each of the years 2014 to 2018, and as of 31 May 2019, can be found at the following link: www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Garda_Staff.

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that there are 2,675 Garda staff employed by An Garda Síochána undertaking a range of administrative and technical duties across the organisation. As the Deputy will be aware, the Government's vision is for a Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 to include 15,000 Garda members and 4,000 Garda Staff. The projected 4,000 Garda Staff represents a medium-term target of 20% of the Garda full-time workforce comprised of civilians. Substantial progress is being made towards the realisation of this vision.

Since the beginning of 2017, just under 500 new Garda staff posts have been sanctioned by the Policing Authority with the consent of my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The bulk of these were to address critical skills gaps and capacity issues with a proportion sanctioned to make a start on the redeployment of Gardaí to policing duties. This increase in Garda staff will ensure that trained Gardaí are not engaging in administrative and technical duties which could be done by suitably qualified Garda staff. It will ensure more visible policing and greater numbers of Garda members employed on front line duties.

The Government provided funding in Budget 2019 to sustain continued recruitment into An Garda Síochána. I welcome the Garda Commissioner's decision to recruit a net 600 Garda Staff this year, which will facilitate the ongoing programme of civilianisation in An Garda Síochána and allow for the redeployment of approximately 500 experienced Gardaí to frontline policing duties by the end of this year. This fully reflects the Governments’ continuing support for the Commissioner in reaching the target of 4,000 Garda staff by 2021.

This approach to continued and increased recruitment of civilian personnel is very much in line with the Report of the Commission for the Future of Policing in Ireland. This Report was approved by Government in December. Civilianisation and redeployment are among the key projects being progressed in 2019 in the Implementation Plan published by Government in December - ‘A Policing Service for the Future’ and I am confident the full realisation of these projects will deliver a better policing service to the public.

Citizenship Applications

Ceisteanna (908)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

908. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the timeframe in which a passport can be returned to a person who submits it alongside an application for citizenship. [33353/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that as part of the ongoing implementation of its Customer Service Improvement Plan 2018-2020, the process relating to the verification of passports has recently been streamlined. Accordingly, the bulk of passports are now returned to the applicant within two working days of receipt by the Citizenship Division, heretofore the process was to retain passports for upwards of ten weeks.

Following the change in work practices, there is a number of passports on hand relating to the period prior to the introduction of the revised work practices. I can assure the Deputy that INIS is proactively working to clear the backlog and it is expected that the bulk of outstanding passports will be returned to applicants within the next two weeks.

Queries about the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long-awaited.

Ministerial Meetings

Ceisteanna (909)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

909. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has met a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33411/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that, in July 2018, I corresponded with the group to which the Deputy refers in his question to respond to concerns they had raised with me and my predecessors.

At that time, I indicated to the group that I would be willing to meet with them. Should the group wish to meet with me in the future, I can assure the Deputy that I will be willing to arrange such a meeting.

Garda Station Closures

Ceisteanna (910)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

910. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of Garda stations that have been closed in each Garda division since 2011, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33413/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

There has been an unprecedented level of investment in Garda resources across the State in recent years. The allocation to An Garda Síochána for 2019 amounts to €1.76 billion and significant capital investment is also being made in An Garda Síochána including €342 million being invested in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021 and €46 million for investment in the Garda fleet.

The Deputy will appreciate that the Garda Commissioner is primarily responsible for the effective and efficient use of the resources available to An Garda Síochána, including responsibility for the formulation of proposals in relation to the opening and closing of Garda stations. As Minister, I have no direct role in such matters. Indeed the Deputy may recall that as recently as December 2018, the Garda Síochána Inspectorate in its report “Policing with Local Communities” confirmed that it is appropriate that the Commissioner should continue to hold this responsibility.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda District and Station Rationalisation Programme, developed and implemented in 2012 and 2013, resulted in the closure of 139 Garda stations nationwide. I am further informed by the Garda authorities that the closures implemented nationally under this programme allowed front line Gardaí to be managed and deployed with greater mobility, greater flexibility and in a more focused fashion, particularly with regard to targeted police operations.

It should be noted that the number of Garda stations in Ireland compares favourably with similar jurisdictions including Scotland.

The table below sets out the locations of the Garda stations that were closed in that programme.

Division

Number of Stations Closed

DMR North

2

DMR North Central

0

DMR South

0

DMR South Central

1

DMR East

3

DMR West

0

Cavan/Monaghan

9

Donegal

8

Louth

0

Sligo/Leitrim

12

Cork City

4

Cork North

1

Cork West

9

Kerry

12

Limerick

8

Kilkenny/Carlow

4

Tipperary

7

Waterford

2

Wexford

3

Kildare

3

Meath

2

Westmeath

4

Wicklow

2

Laois/Offaly

4

Clare

9

Galway

11

Mayo

10

Roscommon/Longford

9

Total

139

Protected Disclosures

Ceisteanna (911)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

911. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of his response to allegations of financial and procedural irregularities in the Irish Prison Service as outlined in the protected disclosure made by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33414/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service has commissioned an external independent investigation of the matters raised.

Public Inquiries

Ceisteanna (912)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

912. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the scoping exercise into the death of a person (details supplied); if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the family of the deceased has requested a public inquiry into his untimely death; the reason for refusing the inquiry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33415/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the matter of the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of the late Shane O'Farrell has been addressed by me on several occasions in both the Dáil and the Seanad.

Following the Dáil motion calling for an inquiry last year, I sought the advice of the Attorney General on how best to move forward while taking account of the fact that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission was still investigating certain matters. Since then, I have appointed retired District Court Judge Gerard Haughton to conduct a scoping exercise and to advise me in relation to the case.

Judge Haughton has met with the O'Farrell family to discuss the terms of reference and to seek their views. I subsequently received his proposal for some changes to the terms of reference for the scoping exercise and I sought further advice from the Attorney General on those changes. That advice has been received and my Department is currently examining it with a view to finalising the terms of reference and formally commencing the scoping exercise.

Judge Haughton is required to provide me with an interim report within 8 weeks of the commencement of the scoping exercise. He is free to make any recommendation he sees fit, including the establishment of any of the various forms of statutory or non-statutory inquiry. Should he consider it necessary to recommend an inquiry, I have asked him to provide me with draft terms of reference.

Garda Stations

Ceisteanna (913)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

913. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the development of the new Garda regional headquarters in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33437/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation of €1.76 billion for 2019, as well as capital investment amounting to €92 million this year. These resources are being provided in support of the Government's commitment to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime.

In terms of the Garda estate, the Deputy will appreciate that the Office of Public Works has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation and works in relation to Garda accommodation are progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works (OPW).

The Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021 is an ambitious programme based on agreed Garda priorities. It continues to benefit over 30 locations around the country, underpinned by significant Exchequer funding across the Garda and OPW Votes. In addition to that programme, other major ongoing works to the Garda estate include the pilot Garda station reopening project, the development of a new facility at Military Road and the major refurbishment of Fitzgibbon Street station. The clear goal of this investment is to address deficiencies in the Garda estate and provide fit-for-purpose facilities for Garda members and staff, as well as the public interacting with them.

In relation to Sligo, I can inform the Deputy that the Public Private Partnership arrangement included in the Building and Refurbishment Programme is intended to deliver new stations in Sligo, Macroom and Clonmel.

The development of PPP projects is progressed under the auspices of the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) and the OPW has agreed to provide its expert services in the design of the three stations included in this PPP. My Department, An Garda Síochána, the OPW and the NDFA are working closely in order to progress this project.

The establishment of PPP projects can be complex and it is vital to get the projects right at the planning and design stage. I can assure the Deputy that delivery of the new Garda stations in Sligo, Clonmel and Macroom through this PPP arrangement is being pursued as a priority. Pending delivery of the new stations, I am informed that Garda management and the OPW have been working to improve conditions and facilities at the existing stations.

Garda Vetting Applications

Ceisteanna (914)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

914. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason a person (details supplied) recruited as a clerical officer for An Garda Síochána in March 2019 is still waiting on the outcome of Garda vetting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33515/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that contact has been made with his office to request additional information. This information is necessary in order to be in a position to make enquiries with the Garda Authorities.

When the relevant details have been provided, I will revert directly to the Deputy.

Commencement of Legislation

Ceisteanna (915, 936)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

915. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the commencement order for the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019 in regard to the increase in the number of weeks of parental leave will be signed into law and come into effect for parents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33516/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

936. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34035/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 915 and 936 together.

As the Deputy is aware, the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019 amends the Parental Leave Act 1998 to:

- extend the period of unpaid parental leave from the current entitlement of 18 weeks to 22 weeks from 1st September 2019, and to 26 weeks from 1st September 2020;

- allow any parent who did not use their full entitlement to leave under the 1998 Act to claim any unused leave as long as their child is under the qualifying age; and

- increase the age of the child for which parental leave is available from 8 to 12 years.

The Deputy will recall that during the Final Stage debate on the Bill in Dáil Éireann, I gave an undertaking that the Act would be commenced no later than 19th July. I can confirm that Minister Flanagan signed the relevant commencement order on 16 July to commence the Bill from 19 July.

As the Deputy is aware, parents are required to provide their employers with six weeks notification of their intention to take parental leave under the 1998 Act. By commencing the Act from 19th July, parents are now able to comply with the notification requirements to take the four additional weeks of parental leave to be introduced from 1st September.

Citizenship Applications

Ceisteanna (916)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

916. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of pending citizenship applications as of 17 July 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33705/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is governed by the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. All applications for a certificate of naturalisation are processed and assessed individually in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements, not only within the State but also at European Union as well as international level. It is therefore important that appropriate procedures are in place to ensure that the integrity of the regime for granting Irish citizenship through the naturalisation process is held in high regard both at home and internationally. These procedures are continually evolving such as reflecting the need to respond to changing international circumstances and also to ongoing service improvements due to the introduction of new technology and work practices.

In general, it takes around 6 months for a standard application to be processed from the date it is received to the date a decision is made. The average processing time from the date an application was received to the date a decision was made was 6.7 months in 2016, 7.2 months in 2017 and 6.5 months in 2018. Additional checks with state agencies which in turn may require liaison with counterparts in other jurisdictions can result in some applications taking longer than this average timescale. These checks are fundamental to maintain the legitimacy of the naturalisation process both nationally and internationally.

As of 17 July 2019, there were approximately 12,500 applications on hand. To date this year a total of 2952 adults and 671 minors have been naturalised.

The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases can take longer than others to process. Each citizenship application is unique and is assessed on its merits according to the administrative and legislative conditions in place at the time of application

INIS devotes considerable resources to the processing of these applications. It also operates a dedicated phone helpline and email helpdesk available for all applicants interested in the progress of their application, details of which are available on the INIS website at www.inis.gov.ie.

Citizenship Applications

Ceisteanna (917, 918, 928, 930, 937, 938)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

917. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons who have lodged applications for citizenship who do not have a full and unbroken period of time here in the past year as of 17 July 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33706/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

918. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the way in which he plans to proceed with applications for citizenship and the resources in place to handle same following a recent ruling (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33722/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

928. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding persons who have an open and pending application for citizenship following a ruling on applicants made on 17 July 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33810/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

930. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to legislate urgently to amend the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 in light of the recent High Court judgment that applicants for citizenship must not be absent from the country for a single day in the year of application (details supplied); his further plans to instigate a more realistic regime than the prevailing six weeks of absence that was previously the standard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33855/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

937. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce an amendment to legislation further to a ruling (details supplied) on section 15(1)(c) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956. [34068/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

938. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a recent court ruling will be clarified in the context of applications for naturalisation (details supplied); the impact of the ruling on ongoing applications; its impact on completed applications in cases in which naturalisation was granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34169/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 917, 918, 928, 930, 937 and 938 together.

I am aware that the recent judgment of the High Court relating to continuous residency under Section 15(1)(c) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 (as amended) has given cause for concern. The matter remains before the courts and is therefore sub-judice.

I do however, want to assure the Deputies that I am taking all appropriate steps to remedy the situation as quickly as possible. Various options to resolve the matter are under active consideration and detailed consideration of these options is underway by officials of my Department in consultation with the Attorney General's Office. The aim is to put in place a practical system that recognises that temporary absences from the State are allowed when determining the residence requirements for citizenship.

The Citizenship Division of my Department is continuing to receive and process applications. Planning for the next Citizenship Ceremony in September is also underway. The advice for people who are planning to apply for citizenship is to continue to collect all the necessary proofs that support the application and to submit a comprehensive application form. Once a solution is in place, if any additional information is required further contact will be made with the applicant.

Further updates will be posted on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) when available.

Direct Provision System

Ceisteanna (919)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

919. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the creation of vulnerability assessment processes for persons in direct provision and available supports compliant with the European Union reception conditions directive will be ensured; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33767/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Directive 2013/33/EU lays down standards for the reception of international protection applicants. Article 21 of the Directive requires Member States, in implementing the Directive, to take into account the specific situation of vulnerable persons, and Article 22 provides for the assessment of the special needs of vulnerable persons.

Vulnerable persons include minors, unaccompanied minors, disabled people, elderly people, pregnant women, single parents, victims of human trafficking, persons with serious illnesses, persons with mental disorders and persons who have been subjected to torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence, such as victims of female genital mutilation.

The Directive was implemented through the European Communities (Reception Conditions) Regulations 2018 which provide for an assessment in relation to special reception needs within 30 days of presentation or application. Once assessed as having special reception needs, there are a number of ways in which those needs are addressed. Tusla, for example, provides the required supports to meet the needs of unaccompanied minors once identified as such.

An initial interview is conducted with all applicants when they first attend the International Protection Office in Dublin. If the applicant indicates at that point that he or she requires accommodation, he or she will then be assessed for any specific reception needs. This assessment is taken into account when assigning accommodation to the particular individual.

As detailed in the Regulations, the Minister for Health and the HSE have lead responsibility in relation to health assessments. Applicants are invited for an initial health assessment on a voluntary basis.

There is a specific Health Screening Team funded and managed by the HSE located on the site of the Balseskin Reception facility for the purpose of assessing those who have just arrived in the State. The team comprises of GPs, a Medical Officer, a Clinical Nurse Specialist and two nurses, a primary care social worker, two primary care psychologists and clerical/administration support. This team offers a range of individual services and screening for medical and psychosocial needs with onward referral as necessary. The individual professionals communicate with RIA (within the bounds of patient confidentiality) if a particular need is identified that will affect the person’s accommodation requirements. A new primary care facility will also open at Balseskin in the coming weeks, which will enable the health care team to provide services in a facility that is to the standard of all HSE primary care facilities.

In addition, arrangements are in place with Safetynet, who carry out health screening in various parts of the country on behalf of the HSE, to offer this screening service to those who do not, for whatever reason, avail of it in Dublin. Safetynet staff liaise with RIA if the person is deemed vulnerable on medical or related grounds. This can include a request that particular steps be taken as regards that person’s accommodation.

There is on-going liaison between RIA and the HSE in relation to how best to meet the health and related needs of protection applicants. The HSE National Office for Social Inclusion has commissioned research to explore the concept of vulnerability with a view to further improving on the processes which are already in place.

It is important to emphasise that all sectors within the Direct Protection system share a role in identifying and supporting applicants who present as vulnerable. This is particularly the case where vulnerabilities may become evident beyond the initial stage of the protection process.

The Department continues to work hard to improve how we deliver services to people who claim international protection and seek our assistance, and to meet the requirements of the 2018 regulations, despite significant pressures.

Direct Provision Data

Ceisteanna (920)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

920. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons resident in direct provision centres for more than one, two and three years, respectively; his views on whether the processing time for asylum applications is acceptable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33768/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The data requested by the Deputy is in tabular form below.

Duration of Stay in RIA Accommodation

Year Range

No. of persons

0>1

1,795

1>2

1,593

2>3

917

3+

1,623

Total

5,928

Direct Provision System

Ceisteanna (921)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

921. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the specific improvements implemented in each of the 40 direct provision centres to separate living facilities for families and provide access to kitchen facilities for parents in order that they may cook meals for their children as recommended in the McMahon report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33769/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As of mid-July 2019, 13 accommodation centres, accommodating 2,710 persons seeking international protection, are operating under the Independent Living model. Independent Living is a system where residents can obtain food, toiletries and other products for personal use from a dedicated Food Hall in a centre using a cashless points system. In addition, residents have access to cooking facilities where they can prepare their own meals. The introduction of Independent Living into accommodation centres was one of the main recommendations of the McMahon Report.

In August 2018, my Department, in conjunction with the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) commenced the first in a series of regional competitions to procure accommodation and associated services for persons seeking international protection. The Request for Tender (RFT) documentation for each competition specifies that award of a contract is conditional on the implementation of Independent Living and the provision of family living spaces. At present, two competitions have been completed, and the recommendations of the McMahon report have been implemented in the centres concerned. My Department anticipates that the completion of the regional RFTs in 2020 will see the implementation of Independent Living and the provision of family living spaces in all commercially-operated centres.

In respect of the seven state-owned accommodation centres, independent living has already been introduced in Athlone and officials from my Department are in discussions with officials from the Office of Public Works regarding the implementation of Independent Living in the six remaining State-owned accommodation centres.

Refugee Resettlement Programme

Ceisteanna (922)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

922. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on whether the commitment to welcome 4,000 persons, 200 of whom are unaccompanied minors, under the Irish refugee protection programme is enough; his plans to increase this number, in particular with regard to unaccompanied minors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33770/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme established by the Government in 2015, the Government committed to accepting 4,000 people into Ireland. To date, a total of 2,555 people have been admitted to Ireland under the Programme.

In a gesture of humanitarian assistance towards the most vulnerable caught up in the migration crisis, the Government also committed to take unaccompanied minors from France who were previously resident in the migrant camp at Calais. 41 unaccompanied minors have arrived in the State from the Calais Special Project, which has now concluded.

Ireland agreed to accept a further 36 unaccompanied minors from Greece, whose arrivals will take place on a phased basis during 2019. In a show of solidarity with those EU Member States most affected by migration in the Mediterranean, Ireland accepted 58 persons from search and rescue missions in 2018, including 4 unaccompanied minors. The Minister has also agreed to accept 5 further unaccompanied minors from Malta in 2019.

Ireland has welcomed 205 programme refugees from Lebanon so far in 2019. An IRPP mission to Lebanon in March selected 331 further refugees for resettlement. Members of the IRPP are currently in Jordan in order to select approximately 300 more programme refugees. This will complete Ireland’s commitment to admit 1,985 programme refugees under the Resettlement strand of the IRPP. The remaining refugees are expected to arrive in Ireland by the end of 2019.

The IRPP programme also includes the IRPP Humanitarian Admission Programme under which Irish citizens, programme refugees, Convention refugees and persons with subsidiary protection can apply for family members to come to Ireland where those persons are living in the top 10 refugee generating countries. 530 persons are being admitted to Ireland this year under that programme.

A pilot Community Sponsorship Programme began in December 2018 and will run until October 2019 with a target of resettling a minimum of 50 refugees. Community Sponsorship Ireland is an alternative to the traditional state-centred model of resettlement. The model enables groups within a community to come together to support refugees arriving to be resettled in Ireland. Twelve persons have been housed to date. The first family arrived on 11 December 2018 and three further families have since been resettled. A number of additional families considered suitable for Community Sponsorship were identified during the October 2018 and March 2019 selection missions in Lebanon. The IRPP mission to Jordan which is currently underway will assess the suitability of interviewees for inclusion in the Community Sponsorship Programme.

Achieving the target of admitting 4,000 persons under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme has required sustained commitment from a range of Government Departments and local authorities.

During his recent visit, UNHCR High Commissioner Grandi highlighted the importance of Ireland's participation in resettling refugees under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme. I intend that work will begin later this year to consider future plans for the Programme.

Direct Provision Data

Ceisteanna (923, 924)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

923. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons currently living in the direct provision centre at Balseskin; the capacity of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33773/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

924. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there are cooking facilities in the direct provision centre at Balseskin; his plans to provide additional cooking facilities there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33774/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 923 and 924 together.

The facility at St. Margaret's Road, Balseskin, County Dublin is contracted by my Department to provide initial reception services to persons entering the state and seeking international protection.

During their stay in Balseskin, protection applicants are offered health screening and are processed for PPS numbers and medical cards. The purpose of Balseskin is to provide a short orientation period before residents are accommodated in centres around the country.

The capacity of Balseskin is 487 persons. On 18 July, the occupancy of Balseskin was 424 persons which includes applicants transferred from Hatch Hall accommodation centre prior to its closure.

Balseskin is a reception centre to meet the orientation needs of applicants in the short term. It is contracted to provide services on a fully catered basis and there are no plans to introduce cooking facilities for residents. The Department remains focussed on implementing independent living in the accommodation centres where people may reside in the medium to long term.

Direct Provision Data

Ceisteanna (925, 927)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

925. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons who will have to be rehoused following the closure of the Hatch Hall direct provision centre; the direct provision centres in which they will be rehoused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33775/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

927. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons living in the Hatch Hall direct provision centre who have been granted status; his plans for the accommodation of these persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33777/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 925 and 927 together.

Regretfully, due to circumstances outside the control of the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department, the contract for the operation of Hatch Hall accommodation centre ended on 15 July 2019. This was a commercial decision by the operator.

The capacity of Hatch Hall was 220 people. 47 people with status / permission to remain have been assisted by Depaul Ireland - contracted by my Department - to transition into mainstream housing. A further 30 individuals were re-accommodated in emergency accommodation. The remainder of residents have been re-accommodated in the new accommodation block at the Balseskin Reception centre in Dublin.

By the date of final closure, all residents have been re-accommodated.

Direct Provision Data

Ceisteanna (926)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

926. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of children attending school living in the Hatch Hall direct provision centre; the measures that will be taken to allow them continue in their existing schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33776/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Regretfully, due to circumstances outside the control of the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department, the Hatch Hall accommodation centre will close on 15 July 2019. This was a commercial decision by the operator.

My aim is to limit, to the greatest extent possible, the disruption to families and to residents. Residents have status or permission to remain are receiving assistance from DePaul Ireland, which is contracted by my Department to find accommodation in the community.

Residents, including families, currently in the international protection process are being re-accommodated initially in Balseskin Reception Centre to minimise disruption and uncertainty. RIA will seek to allocate suitable permanent accommodation as soon as it becomes available within the RIA portfolio. However RIA is extremely limited by the current demands for its accommodation and by the absence of bed capacity within its system.

The Department of Education and Skills provides school places for children resident in RIA accommodation. All children in Ireland, including children seeking international protection, can access pre-school, first and second level education in a manner similar to Irish nationals, until they have reached the age of 18 years.