3. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of asylum seekers being housed in emergency accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40230/19]


Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): I thank the Deputy for his question. My Department is responsible for offering accommodation and related services to international protection applicants while their claim for protection is being examined. These services are demand led and generally it is difficult to predict demand far in advance. Due to an unexpected rise in applications - figures have increased by 53% in the first nine months of this year - existing direct provision centres, which offer accommodation, food, utilities and a suite of State services, have reached capacity.
There are ongoing tendering processes for new accommodation centres. Pending the opening of such new centres and in order to ensure that we continue to provide accommodation for all applicants who require it, the International Protection Accommodation Services, IPAS, formerly the Reception and Integration Agency, RIA, has been accommodating applicants in emergency accommodation in hotels and guest houses.
As of 26 September, there are 1,389 applicants residing in 34 emergency accommodation locations around the country. My Department does not disclose the specific location of emergency accommodation centres in order to protect the identity of international protection applicants.
It is important to note that there is no obligation on any applicant to accept the offer of accommodation. Applicants may source their own private accommodation or choose to stay with friends or family and some do.
Every effort is being made to reaccommodate applicants, who are in emergency locations, to a dedicated accommodation centre as soon as possible. My Department is actively working on securing additional capacity, both in existing centres and through sourcing new centres. IPAS has sought expressions of interest from parties interested in providing accommodation and related services to people in the international protection process and has also launched a nationwide, regional tendering process to secure new accommodation centres.