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Question

324. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice the progress on shortening delays in the international protection procedure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28732/21]

Answer

Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): My Department is committed to implementing the key recommendations in the Advisory Group Report and the White Paper to reduce international protection processing times of both first instance decisions and appeals to 6 months respectively.
This commitment applies to everyone in the international protection process, whether they are residing in Direct Provision accommodation or living independently in the community.
A Programme Board has been established in my Department to oversee the implementation of the relevant recommendations and is supported by an Implementation Working Group. My Department will also be represented on a Programme Board to be established and chaired by Minister O'Gorman, which will set performance indicators for the new model and monitor progress against those indicators. 
The White Paper proposes that the new system should be phased in and operational by 2023 and that the intervening period should provide an opportunity to progress improvements in the overall processing times for international protection.
Work is under way in my Department towards identifying mechanisms which will assist with this. For example, additional ICT resources have been secured for this year, and detailed work including an end-to-end review of processes to guide enhanced processing times is under way. When this first phase of work has been carried out it will enable a more detailed set of milestones to be put in place.
My Department is also committed to ensuring that additional resources designated for the International Protection Office are deployed in the most efficient and effective way possible to increase the output of quality decisions and to the introduction, where appropriate, of new initiatives to further enhance processing times.
A number of initiatives have already been introduced, including the relocation of the Ministerial Decisions Unit to the IPO premises to improve work processes; the designation of the International Protection Appeals Tribunal as a body authorised to hold remote hearings; and the holding of virtual interviews with some applicants living outside of Dublin by the IPO, which I am glad to say resumed on 10 May.
The IPO has also put in place a range of measures to improve efficiencies across a number of work streams, such as accelerated procedures, implementation of non-cooperation measures, and initiatives to speed up the return of completed questionnaires from applicants.
The Advisory Group's recommendation in relation to applicants who will have been two years or more in the system being granted leave to remain, will be considered in the context of the ongoing analysis of progress towards achieving the objectives outlined in the White Paper.
In relation to the current backlog of international protection cases, my Department intends, in the first instance, to prioritise processing of all cases using improved processes and the planned ICT investment in the system.
My Department will, by October 2022 at the latest, commence a review of progress made in reducing and improving processing times and based on the outcome of that review, decide by the end of 2022, whether additional measures are required in order to ensure that the new system can come into operation without the overhang of any significant number of legacy cases.