Statement on tenders for accommodation centres for international protection applicants

 

22 November, 2019

 

The Department of Justice and Equality would like to provide clarification on the tender process currently underway for accommodation centres for international protection applicants (commonly referred to as direct provision centres).

 

There are currently 39 accommodation centres in operation throughout the State, accommodating 6,058 persons as of 11 November. 7 of those centres are State owned and provide approximately 1,140 bed spaces. The other 32 centres are privately owned, and provide almost 5,000 bed spaces. Contracts are signed with private service providers for a set period of time, after which a new contract must be signed in order for the service provider to continue to operate in the sector.

 

In addition, due to a sharp rise of almost 60% in persons seeking international protection this year, there are also 37 hotels and guesthouses being utilised by the Department to provide short-term accommodation on a bed and full-board basis to approximately 1,500 people. The Department has consistently made clear that this is a temporary measure which will only be continued until sufficient places are available within the accommodation centre system for all those who wish to avail of the offer of accommodation while their application is being processed.

 

Last December, the Department commenced a regional procurement process – the outcome of which will determine which service providers will operate or continue to operate into the future - across eight regions for 3 main reasons:

 

1.       To identify an additional supply of premises to meet the Department’s increased demand for accommodation;

2.       To implement a common higher standard across all new and existing accommodation centres including the provision of independent living (allowing residents to cook for themselves and providing designated living space for families); and

3.       To address the recommendation of the Comptroller and Auditor General that the Department’s use of accommodation and ancillary services for asylum seekers should be in line with EU procurement requirements.

 

In line with requirements 2 and 3 above, the Department has previously made clear that all existing accommodation providers operating in the system will need to come through the tendering process if they wish to continue operating in the sector beyond the expiration of their existing contract.

 

It is clearly one of the aims of the tendering process that newly identified centres will come on stream as a result of the process, and that the Department will therefore be in a position to bring an end to the use of emergency accommodation. It is very important to note however that, as a result of the requirement for existing contractors to enter the tendering process if they wish to continue to operate in the sector, it can reasonably be anticipated that the majority of the bed spaces to be provided under the tender will continue to be accounted for by existing centres already operating.

 

The number of additional bed spaces any potential new centres will bring will only become clear once all tenders are completed and any new offers are assessed for suitability. Assuming the majority of existing centres remain in the system, the Department will not be seeking anywhere near 5,500 additional new accommodation places. Nor has it suggested it would. Indeed, the current excess demand is reflected in the number of people currently being accommodated in emergency accommodation (approx. 1,500).

 

The current tendering process forms part of the Department’s concerted effort to improve conditions in Direct Provision centres nationwide.

 

In future, all centres providing accommodation are required to apply the new enhanced standards for accommodation centres.

 

ENDS…/

 

Notes for Editors

 

These new standards were published in August and were agreed following intensive consultation with UNHCR Ireland and relevant NGOs. The new standards include:

 

-          Independent living including access to cooking facilities.

-          Each centre will have a residents’ charter, which describes the services available to children and adults living in the centre, including how and where the services are provided.

-          Continuous training is provided to staff in the centre improve the service provided for all children and adults living in the centre. 

-          Each centre will have a dedicated Reception Officer, who is suitably trained to support all residents’ especially those people with special reception needs both inside the accommodation centre and with outside agencies.

 

An interdepartmental group has been recently established to enhance the provision of services from the range of departments and agencies involved in providing direct provision services. As part of that group’s work, they are considering the use of State owned sites. The interdepartmental group is due to report to both Minister Flanagan and Minister Stanton shortly.

 

Also, the former EU Commission Secretary General, Catherine Day, is currently chairing a separate group examining international best practice in the provision of services to international protection applicants with a view to advising government on medium to long term service provision.