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1497. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice the number of international protection applicants awaiting the issuance of a temporary residence certificate in card form, not a paper document. [39670/22]

1498. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice the number of persons currently awaiting entry into the international protection system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39671/22]

1499. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice the number of international protection applications made to date in 2022. [39672/22]

1500. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice the number of applications currently awaiting a first instance decision at the International Protection Office; the median projected waiting time for a first instance decision for applicants for both prioritised and non-prioritised applications. [39673/22]

Answer

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): I propose to take Questions Nos. 1497 to 1500, inclusive, together.
The overall objective of my Department is to have recommendations made on international protection applications as soon as possible. This ensures that those who are found to be in need of protection from the State can receive it quickly and begin rebuilding their lives here with a sense of safety and security.
Anyone who wishes to make an application for international protection must proactively do so on their own behalf and on behalf of any of their minor family members. If they apply initially at their port of entry to the State they will still need to make a formal application at the Dublin offices of the International Protection Office (IPO) of my Department. There is no need to make an appointment. Everyone completes their preliminary interview under Section 13 of the International Protection Act 2015 on the day they first attend the IPO offices. Therefore, there are no applicants waiting for a preliminary interview. When the registration process is completed, a Temporary Residence Certificate (TRC) is given to the applicant.
The IPO has identified the practical efficiencies that can be made to improve the registration process. TRCs are now generally being issued on the same day as the preliminary interview, i.e. the first day the applicant attends the IPO Offices. The need to make a further appointment (call back) with an applicant to complete the application process has been almost completely eliminated with interpreters from the main languages present on the reception floor to assist applicants in making their protection applications. There are currently five international protection applicants awaiting the issuance of a temporary residence certificate.
The Deputy may be aware that in recent months, the number of people claiming international protection has increased significantly, with 6,494 applications made so far this year to the end of June 2022. This is a 191% increase on the same period in 2019, the last year in which application numbers were not impacted by COVID-19.
Notwithstanding the very large increase in the number of applications, the median processing time for all international protection cases processed to completion by the IPO in Quarter 2 2022 was 22 months. The median processing times for prioritised applications processed in Q2 2022 was 10 months.
In total, there were 9,048 international protection applications on hand at the International Protection Office (IPO) of my Department at the end of June 2022.
I can assure the Deputy that my Department continues to work to improve the international protection process and to reduce processing times, in line with the recommendations made by the Expert Advisory Group, led by Dr. Catherine Day, and the commitments in the Government's White Paper, published by my colleague, Minister Roderic O’Gorman. However, the substantially higher number of applications currently being received, as outlined, will present a significant challenge in achieving this.
An end-to-end review of relevant international protection processes by a multi-disciplinary team from my Department has been completed and published. New measures and procedures will continue to be put in place to improve efficiencies across all aspects of the protection process. My Department will, by October 2022 at the latest, commence a review of progress made in reducing and improving processing times. Question No. 1498 answered with Question No. 1497. Question No. 1499 answered with Question No. 1497. Question No. 1500 answered with Question No. 1497.