20. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps being taken to ensure that residents in direct provision centres are being advised of their right to vote in local elections in May 2019; and the way in which contact with candidates will be facilitated in order that residents can engage fully with the democratic process. [11877/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Department of Justice and Equality, through the Reception & Integration Agency (RIA), has always facilitated and encouraged the registration of and voting by protection applicants in local elections. Residents are advised what type of elections they can vote in and how they may register with the relevant local authority so that they may vote in elections as appropriate.
The office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration within my Department has supported a number of events focused on encouraging political participation of migrants in local politics. Two of these events were held in Dublin and Cork in 2018. It is hoped another event will be held in Galway before the local election in May. My colleague, Minister of State Stanton, has been particularly active in promoting migrant engagement in politics.
Multi-lingual material has been developed for Voter registration information and for local and European election. This information is accessible and available on the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government website
RIA is currently revising the general policy in relation to local elections. This is in line with actions in the Migrant Integration Strategy 2017-2020 which focus on efforts to ensure that the political system becomes more representative of the broader population. The revised policy will be issued to all centres before the end of March 2019.
Given the particular nature of the accommodation provided in centres, there are a number of factors that limit unrestricted access by candidates to the private living quarters of residents. These include the communal nature of the accommodation system and the many practical and logistical difficulties that would arise for centre managers in providing unsupervised access in circumstances where families and children live together.
The general policy ensures that there are no restrictions placed on residents’ voting rights, or on their rights to access whatever information that candidates wish to convey to them, or on any rights to meet with candidates in the public areas of centres. It also ensures privacy in the residential units and the on-going protection of children in the centre.
There is an opportunity for the Friends of the Centre group at each centre to provide information to residents on how to register to vote and on the importance of local government within the political structure of the State. The Friends of the Centre groups can also raise awareness in an informal way about the importance of voting.