As the Deputy will be aware, the State has a legal obligation to offer accommodation, food and a range of other services (including utilities, healthcare etc.) and allowances to any person who claims a right to international protection in Ireland while their legal claim is being examined.
The number of applications has been steadily increasing (up 60% since the start of the year). To meet the associated increase in demand for accommodation, my Department has initiated two processes to source additional accommodation.
Firstly, we have sought expressions of interest from parties who would be interested in providing accommodation and related services to people in the international protection process. Premises assessed as suitable under this process may be offered a short-term contract (usually one year) which will help to meet demand while the regional tender process is rolled out nationally.
Secondly, we have run procurement competitions through the Government's procurement portal, Etenders, on a regional basis throughout the country to procure accommodation. These contracts will be longer term with a minimum contract duration of 2 years on offer and a maximum contract duration of 4 years.
It is open to accommodation providers to offer premises both through the expressions of interest process or the tender process.
An evaluation of offers received is now underway. It is anticipated that the evaluation process for the Western region will now conclude by mid December 2019. For the purposes of the tender, the Western region covers Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. Until the evaluation is complete, the Deputy will appreciate that I cannot comment on the possible location of any new centres. When the evaluation and commercially sensitive aspects of the process are completed, my Department will begin engagement with local communities and their political representatives.
My Department currently has a network of 39 accommodation centres across 18 counties and there is positive engagement between residents and local communities in all cases including through the Friends of the Centre Groups. These Groups promote integration across the communities and are a valuable support to residents and to centre managers and staff.