312. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will rule out using shipping units for the accommodation of refugees and asylum seekers from the Middle East and from north Africa; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40060/15]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy is aware, the Irish Refugee Protection Programme was approved by Government Decision on 10 September 2015 in response to the migration crisis which has developed in Southern Europe. Among the measures agreed under the Programme was the establishment of a Network of Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres (EROCs) which would be used to provide accommodation and meet the basic needs of asylum seekers relocated from hotspots in Italy and Greece while their applications for refugee status are processed. Under the provisions of the EU relocation programme, persons considered for relocation who will be accommodated in EROCs upon arrival, must be from countries with a recognition rate for asylum of at least 75%. Accordingly, the expectation is that a large proportion of relocated persons will qualify for refugee status within a very short time and will leave the EROCs.
Officials in my Department, responsible for implementing the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, were tasked with the sourcing of suitable accommodation and orientation services for the proposed network of EROCs. This involves an assessment of information regarding available State properties provided by the Office of Public Works, which is still ongoing, and a request for expressions of interest from commercial accommodation providers, which was advertised in the national media on 9 th October 2015. I understand that approximately 40 expressions of interest have been received so far covering in excess of 80 locations nationwide offering a full spectrum of different accommodation types. These commercial expressions of interest are currently being evaluated alongside the information provided by OPW in respect of State properties.
A key component of the evaluation process for both commercial and State properties will be a consideration of the suitability of the premises being offered, examining a broad range of factors as set out in the advertisement in the national media. All expressions of interest will be considered in this context. As the process of examination of expressions of interest is ongoing my officials are not yet in a position to inform those who submitted offers of the outcome. Accordingly, I believe I must await the formal outcome of this deliberative process before expressing an opinion on the suitability or otherwise of any individual proposal.