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Question

1405. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Justice the number of audio-visual appeal hearings which have been conducted by the International Protection Appeals Tribunal in 2020 and in January and February 2021; the number of those hearings which were conducted in a language other than English; the reason her Department has not been in a position to facilitate interpretation services for the Tribunal to conduct appeals in languages other than English; if she is satisfied with the progress of the Tribunal conducting appeals audio-visually; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18791/21]

1406. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Justice the number of appeals currently extant before the International Protections Appeals Tribunal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18792/21]

1407. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Justice if administrative staff, part-time members and full-time members of the International Protection Appeals Tribunal are treated as employees of her Department for any contractual, payroll, pension or administrative purposes; if the administrative staff of the Tribunal are eligible for promotion or transfer opportunities within her Department on the same basis as other civil servants in her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18793/21]

Answer

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): I propose to take Questions Nos. 1405 to 1407, inclusive, together.
The International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT) is a statutorily independent body and exercises a quasi-judicial function under the International Protection Act 2015.
However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy I have had enquiries made and I am informed by the Tribunal that between November 2020 and 15 April 2021, the Tribunal has successfully conducted 63 hearings by way of audio video facilities (4 in 2020 and the remaining 59 between January and 15 April of this year). The Tribunal was designated as a body under s.31 of the Civil Law and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020, which will assist it in the greater use of audio video hearings, where necessary due to Covid-19 restrictions or otherwise. The Tribunal currently has 1,687 appeals on hand.
To date, the IPAT has not been able to conduct audio video hearings in languages other than English. My Department is subject to a number of obligations in the delivery of its services, including complying with the rules governing public procurement and adhering to the general principles set out in the Treaty of Rome. In order to meet these obligations, my Department is currently running a competition to procure audio video interpretation services for the Tribunal to facilitate interpretation services for the tribunal to conduct appeals in languages other than English.
With regard to the Deputy's questions on staffing, I can confirm that the position of part time Tribunal Member of IPAT is a statutory position created under the International Protection Act 2015. Tribunal Members are appointed by the Minister for Justice, following a public competition by the Public Appointments Service, in accordance with section 62(4) of the 2015 Act.
Members are appointed for a term of three years on the terms and conditions determined by the Minister for Justice. Pursuant to section 62(7) of the Act, Tribunal Members may be re-appointed for a second term not exceeding three years, though there is no guarantee of re-appointment.
Each member of the Tribunal appointed in a part-time capacity holds office under a contract for services in writing, containing such terms and conditions as the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, may determine. Part time members are paid on a fee per item basis in respect of completed decisions.
The whole time members of the Tribunal are employees of my Department, on fixed-term contracts; their pay and pensions entitlements are analogous to established Civil Service pay grades, as specified in their respective contracts and they have access to the same statutory entitlements, administrative and employee supports as all Department employees.
The Tribunal is supported by administrative staff who are employees of my Department. These staff are subject to, and benefit from the same contractual, payroll, pension and administrative requirements and supports as other civil servants employed by my Department. They are eligible for promotion or transfer opportunities on the same basis as other civil servants in my Department.