Justice minister Helen McEntee told the Dáil yesterday that the direct provision system has provided accommodation, food and healthcare to over 65,000 people since its inception some 20 years ago.
However, she said that while these basic needs have been met, people claiming international protection need a holistic system that is responsive to their individual needs and that fully respects their dignity and right to privacy and family life.
She said reforms such as access to cooking facilities, labour market access, and agreed national standards were not enough, which is why the Government has committed to ending the current system of direct provision.
It will be replaced with a new international protection accommodation policy, centred on a not-for-profit approach.
Responsibility for the accommodation system is transferring from Justice to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
An expert group will examine best practice in other European States and report by the end of September, with a White Paper expected by year-end.
The minister said that direct provision residents in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry are now being allowed transfer to alternative accommodation.
Restrictions on transfers were necessary as a precaution during the pandemic, but are now being eased, she said.
The transport needs of residents wishing to visit larger towns in the area for shopping are now being arranged.
Among the issues the expert group will examine are:
- Extending the right to work,
- Exploring alternative housing models and funding provisions,
- Giving clear guidance to ensure all applicants can open bank accounts,
- Reducing the amount of time taken to process positive decisions,
- Ensuring binding standards for centres are applied and enforced by January 2021,
- Compulsory training and regular networking for centre managers,
- Moving away from the use of emergency accommodation,
- Ensuring vulnerability assessments take place,
- Working with the Department of Transport towards providing access to driving licences.