The Government is planning to house nearly 5,500 asylum seekers in new direct provision centres across the State at a cost of more than €320 million over the coming years.
Tender documents show the Department of Justice is seeking providers to operate centres in eight regions covering the 26 counties.
Aidan O’Driscoll, the department’s secretary general, has said a programme of engagement will be carried out with communities as the locations of the centres are finalised. It is understood that the department will begin analysing the bids for the contracts in the coming weeks.
The department has been under pressure to find accommodation for asylum seekers following 3,762 applications in the first nine months of this year, the highest level since 2008. There was a 20 per cent increase in demand for direct provision accommodation last year and this is expected to rise further this year.
Sixteen men, believed to be from Iraq and Iran, were yesterday found in a trailer attached to a truck on the Cherbourg to Rosslare Stena ferry.
Detectives were trying to establish if it was a case of people trafficking or smuggling, but the possibility that the men climbed into the trailer of their own accord has not been discounted. Some of the men told gardaí they believed they were on their way to the Britain.
The men, who were said to be in good health, were going through the initial stage of their immigration processing last night and were expected to apply for international protection.
In the mideast region – Kildare, Wicklow, Meath and Louth – the department wants to find accommodation for a minimum of 1,256 asylum seekers, with a potential need for more depending on the numbers seeking international protection. The contract is valued at €65 million and would run for 24 months.
The tender documents show that in the Border region – Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan and Sligo – the department is seeking to house at least 750 asylum seekers in new centres. The contract for these is valued at €46 million and would last for between two and four years.
There are also plans to house 620 asylum seekers in direct provision centres in Dublin, with the contract due to run for five years.
At least 617 asylum seekers would be placed in the west region – Galway, Mayo and Roscommon – under the plan and those bidding for the contract have been told it is worth €33 million over at least two years.
In the midwest region – Clare, Limerick and Tipperary – the Government is seeking accommodation for a minimum of 318 people. Those bidding for these contracts have been told it would be worth €15.7 million.
In the southeast region – Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford – a minimum of 560 asylum seekers will be accommodated and these contracts will cost about €36 million.
At least 783 asylum seekers would be housed in the southwest region – Cork and Kerry – under the plan with the contracts lasting between two and four years and costing some €36.5 million.
Finally in the midlands – Longford, Westmeath, Offaly and Laois – about 425 asylum seekers are to be accommodated in new centres. The contracts for this region are worth €27 million.
In a letter sent to the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee, Mr O’Driscoll said that there are now 1,531 asylum seekers in emergency accommodation in hotels and guesthouses because of a lack of space in the direct provision system.
“I am aware that this is a highly unsatisfactory situation and can only be short term,” he wrote.
The department declined to reveal the exact locations of the potential new direct provision centres, but Mr O’Driscoll said talks with the relevant communities will begin shortly.
“When the evaluation and commercially sensitive aspects the process are completed, the department will begin engagement with local communities and their political representatives and in order to allay any concerns about impact on local service.”