Expert group’s report on replacing direct provision sent to Government

Document to address delays in the system, housing issues and supports for children

An expert group investigating how to replace direct provision, speed up the asylum process and support children in centres has sent its report to Government.

The expert group, led by former secretary general of the European Commission Dr Catherine Day, has sent a list of recommendations to Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Minister for Children, Disabilities, Equality and Integratio Roderic O'Gorman.

Dr Day previously described the current direct provision system as “unsatisfactory” and “largely reactive”.

She said earlier this year that the group’s goal was to develop a “sustainable and agile system which has a clear focus on the needs of those seeking international protection” and respects dignity and human rights.

She said a “whole of government” approach will be needed in changing the system.

Ms McEntee and Mr O’Gorman received copies of the report in late September and will “take a short period of time to examine the recommendations and consult with other relevant minister on the immediate next steps,” spokeswoman for the Department of Children said.

The report will be “brought to Cabinet and published in a matter for weeks”, she added.

It is understood Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has also been briefed on the report, which recommends improvements on all aspects of the asylum process including the need for vulnerability assessments on arrival in the country, greater educational supports for children and housing options for people awaiting a decision on their application.

Asked to comment on the expert group’s report, a Department of Justice spokesman said it would “not be appropriate to disclose the details of the report before it is discussed in Cabinet” but said the Government was “committed to ending the current system of direct provision”.

The spokesman said it would be up to Mr O’Gorman “to progress the matter following the transfer of this function to his department”.

The full transfer of the direct provision portfolio to the recast Department of Children, Disabilities, Equality and Integration is “expected to take place shortly”, he said.

Mr O’Gorman said during the summer that existing direct provision centres would continue to operate in the “short to medium term”. He has not yet named a date for when the last direct provision centre will close but said it will be achieved “within the lifespan of this Government”.

In a briefing note in May, Dr Day said the group was focusing on two main issues - how to reduce delays in the protection process and how people are accommodated and treated during and after the asylum process.

She has urged the Government to address “as soon as possible” problems around the right to work, access to driving licences and bank accounts, a move away from emergency accommodation, the introduction of vulnerability assessments, the training of direct provision managers and the inspection of centres.