Statement by Ministers Flanagan and Stanton regarding the Direct Provision system
- Ministers circulate to TDs and Senators Dr Catherine Day’s Briefing note on Progress of the Expert Group on Direct Provision
- Dr Day identifies a list of measures which would immediately improve the situation of those currently in direct provision and signals her desire that changes will be made
- Department to also review actions taken to date in reaction to COVID-19 pandemic
5 June 2020
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, and the Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton TD, have today sent all TDs and Senators the Briefing Note on Progress of the Expert Group on Direct Provision prepared by its chair, Dr Catherine Day (former Secretary General of the European Commission).
Speaking today, Minister Flanagan said:
“How Ireland treats its minorities including those seeking asylum has been at the forefront of many of our minds recently. This is due both to the stress Covid-19 has placed on the Direct Provision system and also the way in which some have drawn parallels with recent events in America.
“Minister Stanton and I welcome that focus as we believe that root and branch reform of the system and the policy behind it is required. Indeed that is why some months ago we requested Dr Catherine Day to examine, unconstrained by current or past policy, the provision of state supports, including accommodation, to the people in the process. I have now shared her recently submitted Briefing Note with all members of the Oireachtas as I believe it will allow the current debate to be fully informed and allow public representatives to consider realistic options to improve conditions for applicants.”
Ministers Flanagan and Stanton had originally asked the group to report by the end of the year. In light of the importance of the issue Dr Day has told them they are in fact aiming to complete their work by the end of September. The Note includes a list of measures, identified so far, which would immediately improve the situation of those currently in direct provision and signal that more far-reaching changes will be made.
These recommended measures include:
- Extending the right to work;
- Exploration of alternative Housing models and funding provisions;
- Clear guidance with regard to ensuring all applicants can open bank accounts;
- Reducing the amount of time taken to process positive decisions;
- Ensuring binding standards for centres are applied and enforced by January 2021;
- Compulsory training and regular networking for centre managers;
- Moving away from the use of emergency accommodation;
- Ensuring vulnerability assessments take place;
- Working with the Department of Transport towards access to driving licenses.
The Ministers have instructed their officials to have proposals on all these issues ready to be considered by the incoming Government.
Welcoming the Briefing Note from Dr Day, Minister Flanagan also referred to the stress which COVID 19 placed on the Direct Provision system:
“Today’s Cabinet agreement to proceed on 8th June in moving onto phase 2 of the roadmap to easing COVID-19 restrictions is also an opportunity to take stock and review matters. I believe such an exercise is essential as we need to be prepared for a possible second wave of the pandemic, should it materialise.
“I have therefore asked the Secretary General to undertake a review of our action on DP in the early stages of the pandemic, with particular reference to opening centres such as the one in Cahersiveen, to inform our actions in any subsequent phases. To ensure it is done quickly as possible, this review will be conducted internally with HSE input/involvement. We will seek external expert input on it when it is near completion.”
Referring to the challenge posed by the pandemic, Minister of State Stanton said:
“COVID-19 emerged across the world with incredible speed. All of us, in reacting to the unprecedented situation had to develop systems, protocols and approaches rapidly. We took heed of the WHO advice to act very fast in seeking to keep people safe. At all times, we had the welfare of residents and staff foremost in our minds and this will continue to be our focus. COVID-19 is first and foremost a public health emergency and this necessitated building, deepening and strengthening relationships between the Department and the HSE locally and nationally.
“The work of protecting the welfare of residents has placed high demands on all involved and while acknowledging that I expect the Secretary General’s review will provide a valuable insight into how we can react better to any future waves of the virus which may arise.”
Notes for Editors:
The Expert Group on the Provision of Support, including Accommodation, to Persons in the International Protection Process (Asylum Seekers), was established in late 2019 by Ministers Flanagan and Stanton. The group is chaired by Dr Catherine Day, former Secretary General of the European Commission. The other members of the group are Dr Frances Ruane (former Director of the Economic and Social Research Institute), Mr Frank Daly (Former Chair of the Revenue Commissioners), Mr Conn Murray (former CEO of Limerick City and County Council), Ms Niamh O’Donoghue (former Secretary General of the Department of Social Protection); Ms. Fiona Finn (CEO of Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre); Nick Henderson (CEO of Irish Refugee Council) and Mr Bulelani Mfaco (MASI).
The Expert Group has the following role:
- To advise on the development of a long-term approach to the provision of supports including accommodation to persons in the international protection process;
- To identify good practice in European countries in the provision of supports to persons within the international protection process, particularly dealing with variations in demand; and
- To set out a process for achieving the long term approach to support persons in the international protection process.
It follows on the work of the Working Group chaired by Judge Bryan McMahon (Working Group to Report to Government on Improvements in the Protection Process, including Direct Provision and Support to Asylum Seekers), which reported in June 2015 and issued substantive recommendations on improvements necessary within the international protection process and the direct provision reception system.