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A protest calling for an end to Direct Provision RollingNews.ie
INspections

Hiqa to begin inspections of Direct Provision centres this year after campaign by rights groups

Inspections are currently carried out by an independent company QTS Ltd.

INSPECTIONS ON PERMANENT asylum seeker accommodation centres will be carried out by the health watchdog before the end of the year, the Integration Minister has said.

Green Party Minister Roderic O’Gorman says that the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) will begin carrying out inspections on all permanent International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) centres before the end of 2023.

“My Department has worked intensively with Hiqa over the past two years to prepare for its monitoring role, and it is my intention that Hiqa will commence inspections in 2023, once legislation is in place,” O’Gorman said, in a response to a Parliamentary Question from Sinn Féin’s justice spokesperson Pa Daly.

It comes as O’Gorman also confirms that the Government’s review of the White Paper on ending Direct Provision would be completed by the end of June.

In particular, O’Gorman says that the spike in asylum seeker applications in recent months have “huge implications” for the implementation of the White Paper.

“The review is also considering whether it is preferable to prioritise the implementation of certain aspects of the White Paper reforms over others,” O’Gorman said.

“The objective of such an approach would be to progress with key reforms that are achievable in the current altered context and build must needed accommodation capacity in the system.

“This could enable progress on a meaningful reform programme that adheres to the key principles of the White Paper.”

Inspections

While inspections are still carried out on asylum seeker accommodation centres, they are carried out either by a third-party inspections company – QTS Ltd – or by officials from IPAS.

The inspections themselves are to ensure that centres are adhering to the National Standards, which require accommodation centres to be safe, with adequate facilities for residents.

O’Gorman confirmed that some inspections were not carried out last year, due to his Department’s response to the large influx of refugees from Ukraine.

“In 2022, all IPAS centres with the exception of 2 permanent centres had 2 inspections carried out. 5 centres had 3 inspections carried out,” O’Gorman said.

“The third round of inspections were not carried out as the usual mid-year round of inspections were delayed due to the Department’s response to the Ukraine crisis.”

According to O’Gorman, there have been 110 inspections carried out by QTS Ltd. These inspections focus on a wide range of potential issues, including fire safety, condition of communal areas, the quality of food and hygiene standards.

There had previously been calls for Hiqa to take over the inspection of all IPAS centres by Standing Against Direct Provision (STAD), a coalition of migrants rights bodies including Nasc, the Immigrant Council of Ireland and Amnesty International Ireland.

A spokesperson for Nasc told The Journal that while it welcomed the Hiqa oversight, there needed to be clarity as to whether it would extend to emergency accommodation centres.

“Nasc welcomes Hiqa’s oversight, however the majority of people being accommodated by the International Protection Accommodation Service are not living in Direct Provision centres, for which the National Standards were developed, but in emergency accommodation,” the spokesperson said.

“We understand that over 7,000 people are currently living in Direct Provision centres, whilst over 11,000 people are living in emergency accommodation.

“We understand that Hiqa’s mandate will be for permanent Direct Provision centres and we are eager for clarification on whether its mandate will extend to emergency accommodation and whether HIQA will be empowered to develop standards for emergency centres.”

In late 2021, Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin had tabled legislation to give Hiqa the power to carry out inspections, but the bill has not been progressed since.

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