Wednesday 22 November 2017

Minister promises to change asylum seeker system

Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Minister Frances Fitzgerald

The Government will not dismantle the controversial direct provision system for asylum seekers, but will instead propose major improvements and fast-track application decisions.

The move comes as the EU is under increasing pressure from soaring migrant numbers and demands by countries like Italy, Greece and Germany for other EU member states to do more.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has already signalled that Ireland will consider accepting more than the 300 Mediterranean migrants agreed, if the EU requests it.

The EU received 185,000 first-time asylum applications between January and March this year.

Ireland is now examining a system of quality improvements to the direct provision system in tandem with a fast-track system for ruling on asylum applications. There are now almost 4,500 people in the direct provision system in Ireland, many of whom have been here for over seven years and still do not know if they can remain.


Earlier this year, the Oireachtas Joint Committee for Public Service Oversight and Petitions said the direct provision system was not fit for purpose.

However, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald warned that it was "not feasible" to say that there were accommodation alternatives.

"The whole question of accommodation is very complex and very difficult," she told the Herald.

"What is happening in many (EU) countries is special areas are being designated for accommodation.

"There are tented villages springing up, there are gyms and hostels being used.

"We have a system of direct provision that provides accommodation and all of the food requirements for families. The children go to local schools at primary and secondary level.

"It is not ideal and it needs improvement, but it is not feasible to say there is alternative accommodation in the short term for the thousands of people who are in direct provision.

"What I want to do is reduce the amount of time that people are spending in direct provision. People are spending too long in direct provision."

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