394. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will report on the work of the Working Group on Direct Provision; and when she expects recommendations to be made to her. [18230/15]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The Independent Working Group to report to Government on what improvements should be made to the protection process, including Direct Provision and supports for asylum seekers, was set up in October 2014. The Working Group is chaired by former High Court Judge, Dr. Bryan McMahon and its membership is drawn from a range of interests in the international protection area including, UNHCR, non governmental organisations, protection applicants, academia, and relevant Government Departments and Offices.
At an early stage the Group established three smaller, more focused groups to deal with specific themes - namely:
-Improvements to the living conditions in Direct Provision centres aimed at showing greater respect for the dignity of persons in the system and improving their quality of life;
-Improved financial, educational and health supports for protection applicants;
-Improvements to the existing arrangements for the processing of protection applications with particular regard to the length of the process.
Over forty meetings of the plenary and sub-groups have taken place to date. The Group has taken evidence directly from residents in the Direct Provision system, both in writing and orally and members have visited centres around the country. A number of consultation sessions with particular groups of applicants including children, victims of torture, victims of trafficking/sexual violence and members of the LGBTI community have also taken place. In addition, the Group heard from a number of experts in this area including the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Dr. Geoffrey Shannon.
The Sub Groups have completed their work and reported to the plenary. I understand that work on the final report is underway and that it will be submitted in the coming weeks.