Help support Cork Safety Alerts by becoming a ‘Supporter’ and donating a small amount each month to help with the running of our website, server and organisation! Click here to become a CSA Supporter.
The Department and in particular our International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) Unit has a very positive working relationship with the Ombudsman and with the team from his Office. This ensures that where any issues are brought to our attention by the Ombudsman’s Office, they can be resolved quickly for the benefit of the resident.
In his Commentary on Direct Provision for 2019, published today, the Ombudsman has welcomed the sustained improvements being implemented in the Direct Provision system, particularly around the continued rollout of self-catering independent living across our network of centres; access to employment for residents; and the publication of agreed National Standards for Accommodation Centres. These Standards were prepared with key input from UNHCR Ireland and a number of NGOs working in this area and will bring consistency to the supports and services provided for residents in all centres.
We recognise that our programme of improvements must be continuous and that there is more for us to do. This includes our ongoing efforts to reduce the number of residents in emergency accommodation as well as the length of time that residents spend in emergency accommodation. As the Ombudsman rightly points out, it is impossible to predict accurately the demand for international protection. In the last two years we have seen significant increases in the number of new applicants and the consequent demand for our accommodation services. Much of our use of emergency accommodation could be eliminated if the more than 1,000 people who have been granted permission to remain in the State but continue to reside in Direct Provision accommodation could relocate into mainstream accommodation. We are working with Local Authorities and the City and County Managers Association to assist residents with this transition. We have also provided funding to the Peter McVerry Trust and DePaul Ireland as part of this process.
As part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been positively acknowledged by the Ombudsman in terms of the speed of our response and specific actions taken, we have opened new accommodation and relocated over 600 residents to support social distancing in centres and cocooning measures for the most vulnerable. By doing this, we have ensured that a maximum of three single people are sharing a room in any of our centres. We were pleased to be able to confirm to the Ombudsman before the publication of his Report that we intend to continue this policy when the crisis is over.
The independent Expert Group, led by Dr. Catherine Day, former Secretary General of the European Commission, is continuing its work on examining the Direct Provision system to advise on the development of a long-term approach to the provision of support including accommodation to persons in the international protection process. This includes identifying good practice in other European countries. This Group is expected to report by the end of the year and its recommendations will be brought to Government for its consideration.
The Department takes any complaint from residents very seriously and encourages any resident with issues or concerns to contact us directly in confidence, while of course recognising that the option is always open to the resident to refer to the Ombudsman should the complaint not be satisfactorily resolved. We look forward to continuing our positive and proactive engagement with the Ombudsman’s Office during this year.
Joint Statement from the Department of Justice and Equality and the HSE on the Measures to Protect Direct Provision Residents during COVID-19
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Justice and Equality and the HSE have worked closely together to support the health and welfare of asylum seekers and refugees availing of the State’s accommodation services.
Together, we have put in place a range of measures in all of the Department’s Accommodation Centres to address any cases of COVID-19 if or when they arise. This includes provision for self-isolation facilities in Centres and a number of offsite self-isolation Centres around the State. In all matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic, public health advice from the HSE and the National Public Health Emergency Team is followed.
The established procedure across all Centres where a person is suspected of having the virus or is confirmed as having the virus, is that, where advised by Public Health, they are moved to a dedicated offsite self-isolation facility. Supports are available for the duration of their period of quarantine until such time as the HSE considers that they can return to their centre with no risk to other residents or staff.
Both the Department of Justice and Equality and the HSE are committed to protecting the identity and medical confidentiality of residents, as required by law. For this reason, neither the Department nor the HSE will give specific information about individuals or locations. The health authorities will only comment on cases or outbreaks of any illness (Covid-19 or otherwise) if there is a Public Health reason to do so.
Residents of Centres are subject to the same current public health measures as the rest of the population, for example, the right to exercise within a 2km radius, attend medical appointments or to shop for food or other necessities as set out in Government guidelines. The HSE also follows additional Health Protection Surveillance Centre guidance for residents in Accommodation Centres which can be found on HPSC.ie.
The Department of Justice and Equality and the HSE will continue to work together for the benefit of International Protection Applicants and the general population.
Want to get €5, absolutely free? Sign up to the ‘Smart’ Debit Card – Curve today, and earn a fiver on us! Find out more here.