Ombudsman to call for more power to inspect asylum process

Peter Tyndall to criticise use of hotels as accommodation for asylum applicants

Ombudsman Peter Tyndall is to tell an Oireachtas committee he is precluded from examining complaints about the asylum process itself. Photograph: Alan Betson

Ombudsman Peter Tyndall is to tell an Oireachtas committee he is precluded from examining complaints about the asylum process itself. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall, wants increased powers to inspect how asylum applications are assessed by the Minister for Justice.

Mr Tyndall will today tell the Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality that while his remit over the administration of the direct-provision system has been in place for over two years, “I am precluded from examining complaints about the asylum process itself.”

While the Ombudsman will state that he has no desire to oversee what he calls the “core decisions on asylum applications”, which he says are decided on by the Minister and “properly outside of my jurisdiction”, he will argue that he does not see the same case for the exclusion of administrative processes through which asylum applications are assessed.

“I believe that my remit should be extended to include that process, and I respectfully ask for the committee’s support for this extension,” he will say.

If Mr Tyndall is successful in gaining new powers, it will represent increased oversight of the increasingly controversial direct-provision system, which has been targeted by human rights and migrant rights groups in recent years.

Mr Tyndall will also use his appearance at the committee to criticise the use of hotels as emergency accommodation centres for applicants who cannot get a place in an official direct-provision centre due to capacity issues. The numbers of applicants for direct-provision spaces has increased significantly in recent years, by 25 per cent for 2018 over 2017, and a further 26 per cent increase for the first eight months of 2019.

Emergency accommodation

Since last November, the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) has spent more than €12 million on emergency accommodation which is being used as a stop-gap measure until new direct-provision centres come on stream.

Mr Tyndall will say he is pleased with recent developments in emergency accommodation centres, such as the facilitation of visits to residents by his outreach team and contact with residents by the Department of Social Protection and the Health Service Executive.

However, he will say: “While I do have sympathy for the position the RIA finds itself in, it is simply unacceptable that people who have sought refuge in this country can find themselves in accommodation that is entirely unsuitable for their needs for a prolonged length of time, beyond eight months and counting in a small number of cases.”

Mr Tyndall will cite Ireland’s obligations under European Union directives, which require that asylum seekers are provided with a specified standard of care and living conditions.

“I would call on the Minister for Justice and Equality to ensure that the RIA is adequately resourced to fulfil its obligations under the directive, so that the current practice of accommodating people in entirely unusable emergency settings quickly becomes a thing of the past.”

The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, a grassroots group of people in direct provision, said its volunteers had visited emergency accommodation centres and found several issues, including a baby’s parents left without sterilising equipment, nappies, a cot or baby formula.