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Question

179. Deputy Josepha Madigan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality for the most recent figures available for people in direct provision, including the number of children; the average period of time asylum seekers are in direct provision before a decision is made on their status; the amount it costs per annum to keep a person in direct provision; if she has considered allowing asylum seekers to work, pending a decision; her plans to implement the recommendations of the McMahon report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12764/16]

Answer

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Section 9(4)(b) of the Refugee Act 1996 provides that applicants for international protection shall not seek or enter employment or carry on any business, trade or profession during the period before the final determination of their application. This prohibition is restated in the International Protection Act 2015 which is expected to be commenced later this year. The key concern in this regard is that both the asylum process and the wider immigration system would be undermined by giving immigrants who secure entry to the State, on foot of claims to asylum, the same access to employment as immigrants who follow the lawful route to employment. There is an effective visa and immigration system in place for those who wish to lawfully migrate to the State for employment purposes. Any change in public policy with regard to 'right to work' would also have to have regard to the unemployment situation pertaining in the State at any given time. I would point out that the International Protection Act provides for the introduction of a single application procedure for international protection, which is specifically aimed at addressing the length of time persons spend in the protection process. The new procedure will significantly streamline and speed up the processing of protection applications and will reduce the length of time that persons spend in the Direct Provision system. Preparations for commencement of the single procedure are progressing.
The Report of the Working Group on Improvements to the Protection Process, including Direct Provision and Supports to Asylum Seekers (McMahon Report), has implications for a number of Government Departments and services. The 173 recommendations in the Report were taken forward by the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy and Public Service Reform. To date, some 90 of the recommendations have been fully implemented and more than 30 others are in the process of being implemented. Work on implementing a further number of the recommendations is continuing. The International Protection Act 2015 responds to 26 of the Report's recommendations.
At the end of April 2016 there were 4,486 persons residing in Direct Provision accommodation of which 1,170 were under the age of 18. The median processing time in respect of asylum decisions taken during the period 1 January 2016 to 30 April 2016 for those in Direct Provision accommodation was 25 months approximately. This is an improvement of over 3 months on the median processing time applicable over the period 1 January 2015 to 30 April 2016. In addition, and in line with the recommendations in the Working Group Report, a concerted effort has been made to process cases of those over 5 years in the system. Of those in this category, the majority either have been granted status and will transition out of the system or have a Deportation Order issued against them and are thus required to remove themselves from the State.
In 2015, the total amount paid for direct provision accommodation was €53.143m. As the Reception and Integration Agency is currently engaged in a tendering process for the provision of services at the seven State owned accommodation centres, it is not considered prudent to provide any further breakdown of the total figure provided at this time. Furthermore while the number of persons accommodated can appear relatively static at times, it masks considerable daily and weekly fluctuations in numbers arriving and leaving.