Ministers Fitzgerald and O Ríordáin announce composition of Working Group to examine improvements to the Protection process and the Direct Provision system

Working group to identify range of practical recommendations to Government

Need to ensure that protection applicants are treated with respect and dignity

 

13 October 2014

Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald and Minister of State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin today announced the terms of reference and the membership of the Working Group to report to Government on improvements to the protection process, including Direct Provision and supports to asylum seekers.

The establishment of the Working Group arises from the Statement of Government Priorities 2014-2016 and follows on from a roundtable consultation on the protection process with non-governmental organisations which was hosted by both Ministers. The terms of reference of the Working Group, which are set out below, are essentially concerned with respecting the dignity and improving the quality of life of applicants for international protection while their applications for international protection in the State are under investigation.

The working group is being chaired by retired High Court Judge Bryan McMahon and its membership is drawn from a range of interests in the international protection area including UNHCR, non-governmental organisations, the protection seeker community, academia and relevant Government Departments and Offices. The full details of the membership of the Group are below.

In announcing the Working Group Minister Fitzgerald said, "I am confident that under Judge McMahon’s stewardship the Working Group, given its composition and the varied experience of its membership, will 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. I would urge everybody with an interest in the area to allow the Group the time to evaluate and consider the wide range of issues involved and the complex policy questions arising. I wish the Working Group well with their work and I very much look forward to receiving their recommendations.”

Minister O Ríordáin added, “As someone who has been quite critical of the Direct Provision system as it currently operates and therefore keen to see it reformed, I am very pleased that the Working Group has now been established and is about to commence its deliberations. We must ensure that protection applicants are treated with dignity and respect while awaiting the outcome of their applications and I am confident that we have assembled a group of people with the necessary expertise to assist the Government to respond effectively to the difficulties experienced by many people while they await a final decision on their applications. I am particularly mindful of the position of families and children and the need to ensure that the facilities we have in place are capable of meeting the needs of families in circumstances where their cases are ongoing for protracted periods."

 

The Working Group is expected to commence its work shortly.

ENDS...//

Note to Editors

Membership of Working Group

Chairperson

Judge Bryan McMahon (retired)

Ms. Sue Conlan

Chief Executive Officer

Irish Refugee Council

Mr. Eugene Quinn

Director

Jesuit Refugee Service

Ms. Fiona Finn

Chief Executive Officer

NASC (Irish Immigrant Support Centre)

Mr. Greg Straton

Director

SPIRASI

Ms. Tanya Ward

Chief Executive Officer

Children’s Rights Alliance

Ms. Sophie Magennis

Head of Office

UNHCR Ireland

Mr. Reuben Hambakachere

IRC Core Group of Asylum Seekers and Refugees

Dr. Ciara Smyth

Lecturer in International Human Rights and Immigration Law

NUI Galway

Mr. 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.

Mr. Tim Dalton

Retired Secretary General of Department of Justice

Representatives from relevant Government Departments/Offices will complete the Working Group make-up.

Terms of Reference of Working Group

Having regard to the rights accorded to refugees under the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and bearing in mind the Government's commitment to legislate to reduce the waiting period for protection applicants through the introduction of a single application procedure,

to recommend to the Government what improvements should be made to the State’s existing Direct Provision and protection process and to the various supports provided for protection applicants; and specifically to indicate what actions could be taken in the short and longer term which are directed towards:

(i) improving existing arrangements in the processing of protection applications;

(ii) showing greater respect for the dignity of persons in the system and improving their quality of life by enhancing the support and services currently available;

ensuring at the same time that, in light of recognised budgetary realities, 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.”