517. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Justice if she is considering the possibility of introducing an amnesty in respect of asylum seekers who are residents in the State over a specific period of time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47751/21]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): My Department has taken a pragmatic and compassionate approach to immigration and international protection arrangements in the context of COVID-19 and will continue to do so for as long as is necessary.
For those who are in the international protection process, our objective is to have decisions made on their applications, including the permission to remain consideration, as soon as possible. This ensures that those who are found to be in need of our protection can receive it quickly and begin rebuilding their lives here with a sense of safety and security.
In the permission to remain element of the process, each case is given a detailed consideration on its individual merits under all of the prescribed headings. This includes a full consideration of their private and family rights in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, among other issues, before a decision is taken to grant or to refuse permission to remain.
My Department is committed to implementing the key recommendations in the Expert Advisory Group Report to reduce processing times of both first instance decisions and appeals to 6 months respectively, as outlined in the White Paper to End Direct Provision and Establish a New International Protection Support Service.
The White Paper proposes that the new system should be phased in and operational by 2024 and that the intervening period should provide an opportunity to progress improvements in the overall processing times for international protection.
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.
My Department intends, in the first instance, to prioritise processing of all cases using improved processes and the planned ICT investment in the system. The International Protection Office of my Department is also examining and implementing measures with a view to speeding up processing times and reducing the overall number of applicants in the protection process. These measures include training more staff to conduct interviews and complete reports, whilst also streamlining processes to assist in expediting applications in the medium to long term.
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.