170. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to her reply to Parliamentary Question No. 139 of 24 September 2015, if she will confirm the length of time a person (details supplied) in County Laois has been in the protection process and awaiting a decision on same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35454/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The Deputy will be aware from my response to Question No. 139 of 24 September, 2015 that it is not the practice to comment on individual protection applications. As previously notified to the Deputy, this is in accordance with Section 19(1) of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) which provides for the protection of the identity of protection applicants.
The Deputy may also be aware that the Report of the Working Group on Improvements to the Protection process, including Direct Provision and Supports to Asylum Seekers, was published on 30 June, 2015.
The Report identifies the excessive length of time in the protection system as the most significant issue facing those in Direct Provision. I am committed to tackling the lengthy delays in the protection system. A number of initiatives have already been taken to deal with the number of cases on hand including the scheduling of interviews of applicants on Saturdays, the transfer of subsidiary protection application processing to the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, the establishment of a legal panel to assist the Commissioner with this work, and the appointment of additional members to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.
The Government has also decided to bring forward as a major priority the International Protection Bill which will provide for the introduction of a single applications procedure for international protection. This reform will simplify and streamline the existing arrangements and provide applicants with a final decision on their protection application in a more straightforward and timely fashion and will also, as a consequence, reduce the length of time applicants spend in the Direct Provision system.