332. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will identify all sites being examined for housing refugees, temporarily or in the long term. [42768/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy is aware, the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) was approved by Government Decision on 10 September 2015 in response to the migration crisis which has developed in Southern Europe and as an act of solidarity with other Member States Under this decision, the Government confirmed that Ireland will take in up to 4,000 persons over the next two years in order to give to give effect to the EU legal instruments it has opted into, with approval of the Oireachtas, in respect of relocation and the solemn commitments Ireland has also entered into in respect of resettlement refugees.
Among the measures agreed under the Programme was the establishment of a Network of Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres (EROCs) which would be used to provide temporary accommodation in order to meet the basic needs of asylum seekers relocated from hotspots in Italy and Greece while their applications for refugee status are processed. Under the provisions of the EU relocation programme, persons considered for relocation who will be accommodated in EROCs upon arrival, must be from countries with a recognition rate for asylum of at least 75%. Accordingly, the expectation is that a large proportion of relocated persons will qualify for refugee status within a very short time and will leave the EROCs.
In addition, the Government has committed under the Programme to take in additional resettlement refugees who must also be temporally accommodated in EROCs for the purposes of reception, orientation and integration training, prior to being resettled in communities across Ireland.
Officials in my Department, responsible for implementing the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP), were tasked with the sourcing of suitable accommodation and orientation services for the proposed network of EROCs. This involves an assessment of information regarding available State properties provided by the Office of Public Works and a request for expressions of interest from commercial accommodation providers. The commercial expressions of interest are being evaluated alongside the information provided by OPW in respect of State properties. This process remains ongoing and it would not be appropriate for reasons of confidentiality and commercial sensitivity to identify the sites being considered or examined.
As the Deputy may be aware, independent of the commitments under the above Government Decision, the numbers of persons applying for protection in the State has already significantly increased this year and this has placed great pressure on available accommodation. There is now a need to provide temporary accommodation for the new cohort of asylum seekers and programme refugees who are due to arrive in the State over the next two years under the IRPP. Ireland has always ensured that persons who applied for international protection were never left without bed and board by virtue of an inability to provide for themselves. If Ireland is to maintain this honourable practice then the State must be in a position to enter into contracts to give effect to its commitments and to avoid a situation where those seeking international protection and who cannot provide for themselves are effectively rendered homeless.
It is important to stress that under the IRPP the accommodation being sought for persons is for the limited period of time sufficient to determine their application for asylum and necessary orientation following the attainment of refugee status or in the case of resettlement refugees to allow for a period of orientation prior to resettlement. A sub-group of the Taskforce established by the Government to oversee the implementation of the Programme is considering how persons temporarily accommodated in EROCs are to be moved from EROCs and housed in communities across Ireland. I am informed that this sub-group is expected to report to the Taskforce in the near future. This aspect of the work of the Taskforce is being led by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.