Working group announced to examine direct provision

Ministers say group will look at practical ways of improving the lives of refugees

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Minister of State for New Communities, Culture and Equality, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, has said he is confident the working group will be able to resolve some of the problems with the direct provision system. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Ronan McGreevy

Mon, Oct 13, 2014, 22:01

Members of the working group set up to examine what improvements should be made to the State’s existing direct provision system have been announced as have the group’s terms of reference.

The group, chaired by Mr Justice Bryan McMahon, has been asked to indicate what actions could be taken “in the short and longer term” with a view to improving the processing of applications for asylum, which can take a decade or more.

They have also been tasked with looking at “showing greater respect for the dignity of persons in the system.

But they must ensure, in making any recommendations, that “the overall cost of the protection system to the taxpayer is reduced or remains within or close to current levels and that the existing border controls and immigration procedures are not compromised.”

More than 4,000 asylum seekers live in the direct provision system, a form of temporary shelter set up 14 years ago in response to greater numbers seeking refugee status. Those in the system are given €19.10 a week while they await a decision on their asylum applications.

The group’s members include Sue Conlan, the chief executive officer of the Irish Refugee Council; Tanya Ward, chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance; Tim Dalton, retired secretary general of the Department of Justice; Eugene Quinn, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service; Fiona Finn, chief executive of NASC (Irish Immigrant Support Centre); Greg Straton, director of SPIRASI; Sophie Magennis of UNHCR Ireland; Reuben Hambakachere of the IRC Core Group of Asylum Seekers and Refugees; Dr Ciara Smyth, lecturer in international human rights and immigration law at NUI Galway and Dan Murphy, former chair of the Local Authority Implementation Committee and a former member of the executive council of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said she was confident the working group will be able to identify a range of “practical recommendations to the Government to address the issues that have featured in much of the commentary about the direct provision system in recent times”.

Minister of State for New Communities, Culture and Equality, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who has been severely critical of the system, also expressed confidence the working group will be able to resolve some of the issues.

“I am particularly mindful of the position of families and children and the need to ensure that the facilities ar1e capable of meeting the needs of families in circumstances where their cases are ongoing for protracted periods,” he said.