Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

17.22 26 Feb 2021


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The new system of international protection will move away from the current system where asylum seekers are 'kept away from the community in direct provision centres', the Equality Minister has said.

Roderic O'Gorman also said the reforms will be reviewed in mid-2022 to see if any changes are needed to the current proposals.

He was speaking after the Government unveiled its long-promised white paper on ending direct provision and replacing it with a new system, which will be run on a not-for-profit basis.

It will include two distinct types of accommodation.

There will be new, specially-built reception and integration centres where asylum seekers will be housed once they arrive in the country.

After four months, anyone whose claims are still being processed will be moved to own-door or own-room accommodation in the community.

On The Hard Shoulder, Minister O'Gorman said it will be a significant change to how the current system operates.

He said: “We want to move away from the current system where people seeking asylum here in Ireland are kept away from the community in direct provision centres.

“Housing units will come through my own department, working in conjunction with the Housing Department and approved housing bodies and NGOs.

“We’re very aware there’s a housing crisis in the country, and we know the Department of Housing is absolutely focused on addressing that... this task will be for us, and not the Department of Housing or local authorities."

Capacity

The new system is being developed based on an average estimate of 3,500 asylum seekers arriving here in a year.

That's lower than the number that arrived in 2019 - but Minister O'Gorman said that was a particularly high number compared to the rest of the last decade.

He explained: “We have capacity for additional applicants built into the system. We are aware it has to be ready.

“We’re planning for capacity of around 2,000 in the reception and integration centres, and then 3,500 in the community housing. That gives us a certain cushion.

“The other element that is really important is the processing time, to ensure people’s asylum applications are being adjudicated on.”

He said they'll be aiming for applications to be processed within 14 months, with extra resources being given to develop IT systems and translation services to speed up the process.

As well as the new accommodation, asylum seekers will have access to supports such as English language classes and childcare services.

Minister O'Gorman added: “In terms of the wider supports, I don’t think the old direct provision system ever mirrored what we’re trying to do here.

"It was always that people were put at the edge of society, rather than being brought in and integrated."

Main image: File photo. Picture by: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

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