Minister O’Gorman and Minister McEntee publish the report by the Advisory Group on Direct Provision and announce a reduction in the waiting period for international protection applicants to access work
The Report of the Advisory Group on Direct Provision, chaired by Dr Catherine Day, is being published today
The Group’s report will inform the development of a White Paper, to be published by the end of the year, on how the Government will replace the Direct Provision system
The Government is committed to replacing Direct Provision with a new International Protection accommodation policy, centred on a not-for-profit approach
The Government will introduce independent inspections of Direct Provision centres and vulnerability assessments process for applicants
The Government has also approved revised arrangements for international protection applicants to access work including the reduction in the waiting period from 9 months to 6 months from the date of first application for international protection
This follows a review of labour market access for international protection applicants
The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD, and the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, have today published the report by the Advisory Group on the Provision of Supports, including Accommodation, to Persons in the International Protection Process.
Welcoming publication of the report, Minister O’Gorman said:
“I welcome the publication today of the Advisory Group Report, and I would like to thank Dr Day and her colleagues. The Government agrees with the Advisory Group’s conclusion that the current system of Direct Provision is not fit for purpose and must be replaced. We have already begun work on the White Paper that will set out a new model for accommodating applicants for international protection, and this will be published by the end of 2020.
“Change will take time and the process of moving from the current system will be complex. However, it is important that we immediately begin to create a more humane system, rooted in human rights. With this in mind, I am taking action to introduce immediate reforms to the system. We will shortly introduce vulnerability assessments, and my Department has engaged HIQA about undertaking independent inspections of current accommodation.
“The process of delivering such a comprehensive change to a long-standing system will require the support of residents and civil society as well as Government Departments and agencies. I hope that we can call on their support to deliver a new model that will have the well-being of residents at its heart.”
Minister McEntee said:
“The recommendations will inform a new White Paper due to be published by the end of this year. The White Paper, which will be prepared by my colleague Minister Roderic O’Gorman with input from my Department and other relevant Departments, will set out options for the replacement of the Direct Provision system and outline the steps required to achieve this.”
In parallel with the work of the Advisory Group, the Department of Justice reviewed the labour market access provisions introduced under the European Communities (Reception Conditions) Regulations in 2018. Arising from this review and building on the work of an Inter Departmental Group of Senior Officials, chaired by the Department of Justice, on the services being provided to international protection applicants, the Government approved a number of changes in relation to access by applicants for international protection to work including the reduction in the waiting period from 9 months to 6 months from the date of first application for international protection.
Other changes agreed, subject to the necessary legislative amendments being made, are:
To increase the validity period of a permission to access the labour market from 6 months to 12 months which is renewable.
to remove the restriction on applicants for international protection who hold a labour market access permission from working for public health employers subject to the necessary qualifications being held by such applicants;
to expand access to the labour market to include those applicants who received a first instance recommendation before European Communities (Reception Conditions) Regulations 2018 came into force (30 June 2018), provided that they meet the criteria set out in the Regulations.
Speaking about the review of access to the labour market, Minister McEntee said:
“The review found that access to the labour market has had a very positive impact for applicants and employers. Since its introduction in June 2018, over 5,500 permissions to access the labour market have been issued, including over 4,200 permissions to Direct Provision residents.
“Following Cabinet discussions, a number of positive changes have now been agreed. Access to the labour market will be provided to persons seeking international protection within six months rather than the current period of nine months. The duration of a labour market access authorisation will increase from six to 12 months.
“We will also remove the restriction preventing people accessing employment with public health employers, subject to them having the necessary qualifications. These changes will bring us in line with the policy approach adopted in many other EU Member States.
“And, as part of my plan to transform and modernise the justice sector, I am developing a plan to transform our paper based immigration system to a digital one.”
Notes to the Editor:
The full report from the Advisory Group on the Provision of Support, including Accommodation, to Persons in the International Protection Process is available here.
The Advisory Group was established in October 2019 and chaired by Dr Catherine Day, former Secretary General of the European Commission. The Advisory Group brought together a small number of highly experienced individuals from a range of relevant areas including former civil servants with large scale change management expertise as well as members of non-governmental organisations working in the sector.
The Advisory Group had 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.
The Advisory Group builds 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.
Summary of Recommendations
The current system of direct provision is not fit for purpose and should be ended. There is a need for a new, permanent system to determine international protection applications within fixed time limits and which respects the guiding principles set out in the report. The proposed permanent system should be equipped with the capacity to process and accommodate around 3,500 new applicants for international protection annually. The transition to the new system should begin immediately and be completed by no later than mid-2023.
The new system must integrate a whole-of-Government approach which will require ongoing political oversight and close co-ordination between different Departments, State agencies and local authorities charged with delivering the proposed permanent protection system.
Some legislative changes will be necessary to implement the recommendations made. The aim should be to have new legislation in place by the end of 2021.
Ireland should opt into all of the current EU asylum legislation, subject to a review of any implications such a decision might have for the Common Travel Area with the United Kingdom (UK).
Ongoing involvement of local authorities and communities is an essential condition for future successful integration.
The Advisory Group’s report also recommends detailed changes related to:
Shortening the decision-making process;
Information and communication technology;
Accommodation of applicants;
Transition from the current system to the new permanent system; and