369. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps being taken to tackle the lack of regulation of immigration consultants that purport to provide legal advice to persons seeking asylum or residency here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45470/19]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Immigration Service of my Department has no role in the regulation of immigration consultants in what is a private arrangement between an applicant and any person they wish to engage to advise them. There are no current plans to introduce a system of regulation; however, the matter will be kept under review.
I understand that a significant number of such consultants operate outside of the jurisdiction. Accordingly, the policy of the Immigration Service is that it only deals with the applicant or their legal representative who has written authority to act on the applicant's behalf. The Immigration Service does, of course, receive applications or representations made by immigration consultants on behalf of applicants, but treats them as if they had been received directly from the applicant and accordingly corresponds directly with the applicant concerned and in accordance with Data Protection Regulations.
It should also be noted that the provision of legal services by legal practitioners in the State is regulated by the relevant provisions of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 and the Solicitors’ Acts, respectively. It is an offence for unqualified persons to provide such legal services or to pretend to be legal practitioners under the provisions concerned. Question No. 370 answered with Question No. 285.