84. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the implementation of the working group's recommendation to prioritise applicants for asylum who are waiting for a decision for five years or more; if she is aware that information on implementation has not been communicated to a number of persons in this circumstance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42376/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): In my response to Parliamentary Question No. 340 on 10 November last, I informed the Deputy that an analysis of the recommendations contained in the Report of the Working Group on the Protection Process had been prepared for the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy and Public Sector Reform.
The Deputy will be aware that the Report of the Working Group identifies the excessive length of time in the protection process as the most significant issue facing applicants, in particular those in the Direct Provision system. Notwithstanding the deliberations of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on this matter, I am committed to tackling the lengthy delays in the protection system. A number of initiatives have already been taken to deal with the number of cases on hand, including the scheduling of interviews on Saturdays, the transfer of subsidiary protection application processing to the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, the establishment and subsequent enhancement of a legal panel to assist the Commissioner with this work, and the appointment of additional members to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.
As I also mentioned in my response to the Deputy on 10 November last, one of the key recommendations in the Working Group Report is the early enactment of the International Protection Bill which will provide for the introduction of a single application procedure for international protection, which is specifically aimed at addressing the length of time persons spend in the protection process. The Bill provides for the transfer of responsibility for the processing of protection applications from the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner to the Department of Justice and Equality. It is intended to establish a Protection Office within the Department for this purpose. The Bill also provides for the establishment of an independent International Protection Appeals Tribunal. The new procedure will significantly streamline and speed up the processing of protection applications and will reduce the length of time that persons spend in the Direct Provision system. Existing best practice will be protected and embedded within the new regime. The Deputy will be aware that I published the Bill last week with a view to have it enacted by year end.