Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons waiting more than six months for a decision on an application for international protection from an international protection officer as defined by section 30 of the International Protection Act 2015; the number of months each of these persons have been waiting for such a decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11446/19]
112. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the average waiting time for a decision on applications for international protection from an international protection officer as defined by section 30 of the International Protection Act 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11447/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 111 and 112 together.
I can inform the Deputy that new applicants arriving today at the International Protection Office (IPO), who complete their questionnaire, are now being scheduled for interview as follows: for prioritised applications, within 4 months of application; and for non-prioritised applications, within 8 to 10 months. The IPO target is to issue its recommendation within 8 weeks after the interview. This timing of the latter is dependent on the complexity of the relevant case.
With regards to the number of persons within the system and the length of time awaiting a decision, a number of factors impact on this, some of which are outside the control of the IPO. For example, there are a significant number of applicants (in the order or 2,000) who have not returned their completed questionnaire or had not provided a valid address to the IPO. This number significantly skews the figures of those longest in the system without a decision, as they are more likely to fall into that category.
Work is currently underway to further analyse this cohort of applicants both in terms of processing their cases and the impact it has on overall processing averages. The statistical aspect of this work is expected to be completed in the coming weeks. I will contact the Deputy directly once this analysis is complete.
I should also add that the IPO assumed responsibility for some 3,500 legacy cases carried over when the International Protection Act 2015 was commenced in December 2016. All cases in this category that could be progressed were contacted by the end of 2018 with a date for their interview.
I am further advised by the IPO that there were a total of 5,933 applications on hand at the end of February 2019 and that at the end of January there were some 1,011 applicants waiting to have an interview scheduled. The Deputy will appreciate that this figure changes constantly as new applicants enter the system and in that regard over 750 new applications alone have been received in 2019 to the end of February.