595. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Justice if she will introduce statutory time limits for decisions on asylum applications. [38084/21]


Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): 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.
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.
A Programme Board has been established in my Department to oversee the implementation of the relevant recommendations and is supported by an Implementation Working Group. My Department will also be represented on a Programme Board to be established and chaired by my colleague, Minister O'Gorman, which will set performance indicators for the new model and monitor progress against those indicators. 
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.
Work is under way in my Department towards identifying mechanisms which will assist with this. For example, additional ICT resources have been secured for this year, and detailed practical work, including the end-to-end review of relevant international protection processes by a multi-disciplinary team from within my Department, has now been completed.
My Department's main focus now is to get its processing system functioning as effectively and efficiently as possible, while adhering to all measures in place to combat the spread of COVID-19.  
There are currently no plans to place the timelines committed to in the White Paper on a statutory footing.  Although, as with all legislation, the position will kept under review, the possible consequences for the integrity of the international protection system and for the applicants themselves would require very careful consideration before any such change could be proposed.