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Members of Movement of Asylum Seekers Ireland (Masi) at a conference in Dublin calling for an end to the Direct Provision system. PA Wire/PA Images
justice department

Direct Provision expert group announced to look at ways to 'better meet needs of asylum seekers'

Among the issues the group will examine is engaging with communities where Direct Provision centres are due to open.

AN EXPERT GROUP on Direct Provision is being announced today to look at new ways to “better meet needs of asylum seekers”.

Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan and the Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton have formally announced the establishment of the ‘Expert Group on the Provision of Support, including Accommodation, to Persons in the International Protection Process (Asylum Seekers)’.

Since September 2018, international protection applicants have been placed in hotels and B&Bs due to pressure on Ireland’s asylum system.

There are currently over 1,500 international protection applicants living in emergency accommodation, with 34 hotels and B&Bs in 12 counties now contracted by RIA to provide bed and board.

Flanagan said: “I am pleased that we can draw on their expertise to see if there are new ways in which we can better meet the needs of asylum seekers and ensure we can adapt quickly to any variations in demand.”

He added that the expert group “brings together a small number of highly experienced individuals to devise long-term approaches to supporting asylum seekers”. 

Former Secretary General of the European Commission, Dr Catherine Day, has agreed to chair the group.

Its membership comprises of: Dr Frances Ruane, former Director of the Economic and Social Research Institute; Frank Daly, Chairman of NAMA; Niamh O’Donoghue, former Secretary General of the Department of Social Protection; Conn Murray, former CEO of Limerick City and County Council; Fiona Finn, CEO of Nasc; and Bulelani Mfaco of MASI. 

Minister Flanagan continued: “This is a complex issue for all EU Member States and there is no doubt that we have just to learn from each other.

While substantial improvements have been made to our reception system in recent years we are constantly looking to improve our service. In particular, I want to see better medium and long term planning embedded in our thinking.

Flanagan said that Day’s experience as Secretary General to the EU Commission “is particularly important and valuable” and the Group will be engaging with other EU countries as well as the European Asylum Support Office.

Stanton highlighted the role that the group will play in supporting engagement with local communities where new accommodation centres are planned to open.

Various communities around the country have raised fears over infrastructure and a lack of services to be able to accomodate Direct Provision centres being opened, including in Oughterard, Co Galway; Ballinamore, Co Leitrim; Borrisokane, Co Tipperary and on Achill Island.

“While we have recently had successful outcomes in opening new centres in Borrisokane, in Ballinamore and in Ennis,” Staunton said, “the expert group will look at how we can engage more effectively with communities so that we can work together to respond to the needs of asylum seekers and of local residents.

“This is essential for successful integration opportunities,” he added.

The ministers acknowledged the important role that elected representatives play in communities and said there would be engagement with elected members, among others.

The group is tasked with developing long-term approaches to responding to the needs of asylum seekers in the protection process and will complete its work by the end of 2020.

- with reporting from Cónal Thomas

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