432. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to address the high level of queries in the Garda Síochána National Immigration Bureau; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34415/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Early last week the Garda Síochána National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), with the assistance of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS), put in place a series of measures to address queues at the GNIB Registration Office in Burgh Quay, Dublin 2. Since their introduction on Wednesday last (28th September, 2015), the following arrangements are now in place to improve throughput and relieve the congestion in the public office that occurs at this time of the year as demand for registration increases as students return to their studies. The measures have been successful by reducing the number of persons who are required to call to the office to a minimum and on a par with the number who call at all other times of the year where no significant issues with queuing arise.
One of the key measures is that persons who are students of the colleges listed below and who are registering for the first time or seeking to renew their registrations are not required to attend at the Public Office. Separate arrangements are being put in place to register students of these colleges. The colleges concerned have been contacted and the arrangements communicated directly to the colleges and students involved. Students from these colleges are already being registered under the new arrangements which will see periods set aside to deal with students by arrangement. There is no need for students of these colleges to queue at Burgh Quay and no person will lose residence status or continuity of permission to remain by the application of these arrangements. The colleges concerned are:
- Dublin City University (DCU),
- Dublin Institute of Technology and constituent colleges (DIT)
- Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI),
- Dublin University (Trinity College),
- University College Dublin (UCD).
From 30th September, all new registrations are being be dealt with on Monday and Tuesday of each week. Wednesday to Friday is reserved for renewal of registrations i.e. for those who have an existing GNIB registration certificate. In addition to these measures, extra staff resources are being deployed to the GNIB to assist with the registration process. The Public Office will operate on every Saturday in October and November. With the exception of 10th October, Saturday openings will be by prior arrangement only and in most cases confined to students of the above colleges. The arrangements will be kept under constant review and changed or added to as required to address the demands on the office in this peak period.
The nature of the services provided is such that it is demand led and accordingly, there are peaks and valleys in the numbers of callers at different times of the year. For the purpose of the efficient processing of the registration of up to five hundred people who are dealt with in the peak period at this registration office every day, GNIB personnel who are employed there operate a shift system, which ensures it is open from 8am to 9pm each Monday to Thursday and 8am to 6pm each Friday (excluding bank holidays) and remains open through lunchtime. A numbered ticket issuing system is operated at the office; priority is given in the early morning period for particular categories including those coming here to work or conduct business. This is to minimise the amount of time persons at work are required to be away from their jobs. In addition, the GNIB with the assistance of the Garda Press Office has recently established a Garda website notification system for the purpose of assisting persons who are required to attend at Burgh Quay for registration. On three separate occasions during each day an announcement is posted on the Garda Website alerting customers to the number of available tickets remaining at the Burgh Quay public office for that day. Furthermore, those attending are advised of the approximate time that they will be dealt with, which allows them to leave the office and return later in the day, if they so wish. A GNIB officer is also deployed to meet with each person on arrival at the office to ensure that they are in possession of all of the necessary documentation required for registration, so that unnecessary delays are avoided.
In common with the operation of immigration functions in other States, immigrants seeking to register are required to present in person at my offices. This is necessary for establishment of identity and as an anti-fraud measure and is the practice of immigration services worldwide. For the majority of customers the Garda National Immigration Bureau provides a 'same day service' at its Burgh Quay office. Currently, this office handles all registrations in the Dublin area. At times of high demand, it is not possible, currently, to send this demand elsewhere, it has to be accommodated within the capacity of the Burgh Quay office where the necessary technical infrastructure for registration card recording, generation of registration certificates and fingerprinting exists. Use of other buildings for this purpose is not an option because the biometric equipment and elaborate smart card production systems are not mobile and in any event has to be linked up in real-time to the Garda IT systems.
Work is underway to transfer the registration function to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS). As part of that work new systems are being developed with the aim of reducing footfall and random arrivals to the public office by use of on-line systems and to undertake registrations renewals offsite.
I would like to acknowledge the work of the staff in the Public Office who diligently perform a very important function for the State. It is one of the busiest public offices in the State dealing with, in the region of, 100,000 people every year. The new arrangements outlined above mean that queuing is not necessary and these arrangements will be strictly enforced to ensure that they are implemented as effectively as possible. The new arrangements are in their first week of operation and are proving effective in addressing queue times and in improving the service experience for customers in this busy period.