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'The way we treat asylum seekers says a lot about us as a country' - Ó Ríordáin

The Junior Minister has said that he hopes can bring reform proposals to Cabinet in September.

Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

PROPOSALS TO REFORM the system of direct provision for asylum seekers could be presented to Cabinet in September, Junior Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has said.

He said that it’s a “key area where we have to get reform in”.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, Ó Ríordáin said that Taoiseach Enda Kenny has requested for an update on these reforms by the first Cabinet meeting.

Ó Ríordáin intends to set up a working group with a ‘range of people with great expertise’ from areas such as health, education, and justice, and to look at potential legislation in the area.

He was speaking to the programme during a visit to a direct provision centre in Dublin 2, and described the conditions there.

Eight years

He noted that construction work is being carried out to improve conditions, but that he came across a family of four who were living in a single room, and a boy who had been in the centre for eight years.

Speaking of these long waits for asylum applications to be processed, he described them as “intolerable”.

“We want to live in a country that treats everyone with respect”, Ó Ríordáin said.

The way we treat asylum seekers and people in the system says a lot about us as a country.

“There is a balancing act between having a system that doesn’t encourage people to come into the State, but that also treats people with respect.”

Ó Ríordáin was appointed as Minister of State with special responsibility for Equality, New Communities and Culture in the recent Cabinet reshuffle.

Ireland faced criticism from the United Nations last week on the issue of direct provision. Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said that measures are due to be brought in that will “substantially simplify and streamline the existing arrangements”, leading to reduced waiting times.

Read: ‘None of us can stand over it, it’s just not acceptable’ >

Opinion: Ireland warehouses asylum-seekers, institutionalises them and leaves them in limbo >

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Nicky Ryan

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