I thank the Deputy for his question. International protection is a complex legal process driven by both national and international law, which works to protect the rights of those genuinely seeking protection by ensuring that all applications are examined in a consistently rigorous and fair manner. My Department has introduced a number of measures aimed at reducing the time taken to determine applications. The International Protection Act 2015 introduced the single procedure process for the determination of protection applications. Under that process, all elements of a person's protection claim, including refugee status, subsidiary protection status and permission to remain are considered together rather than sequentially.
An applicant who applies for international protection today can expect to receive a first instance recommendation or decision within approximately 15 months, provided no complications arise. Prioritised cases, which include especially vulnerable groups of applicants such as unaccompanied minors, are being processed in just under nine months. My Department is working hard to achieve a target of nine months in the vast majority of cases. An additional €1 million has been provided in budget 2020 for immigration service delivery, which includes provision for additional staffing to fast-track applications. This will further reduce the time needed for considering applications for international protection as well as pressures on the accommodation systems.
As of 31 October 2019, the mean length of stay in international protection accommodation services, IPAS, was 21 months, down from 38 months in 2015. That is a reduction of 17 months over four years. Where an applicant has been in a centre for many years, there is generally a complex set of reasons. These can include difficulties and delays in the applicant producing the required documentation and in verifying that documentation. In addition, such cases generally involve the applicant having received a negative decision or series of negative decisions on their application and then exercising their right to appeal, often through the courts, which can take time.
The figures on those in centres over three years also includes a substantial group of people who have received permission to remain. While we wish that those granted permission to remain will move on from centres in order that new applicants can access service provision, approximately 847 people with refugee status continue to live in the centres. A total of 532 of those people have been residing in the centres for three years or more. This represents 30.69% of the total number of applicants who have been IPAS residents for three years or more, which is 1,743. While people are under no obligation to accept accommodation in the IPAS, the Deputy will be aware of the current difficulties faced by people trying to source and secure accommodation. My Department is assisting those with status to access mainstream housing with the support of organisations such as Depaul Ireland, the Jesuit Refugee Service and the Peter McVerry Trust. So far this year, 675 people have been assisted in transitioning from IPAS to permanent homes in the community.