200. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a letter was issued to confirm that a hotel (details supplied) met all the health and safety requirements to be used as a direct provision centre prior to the signing of an agreement; if the terms of the agreement relating to the proposed direct provision centre at the hotel commenced on the date the agreement was signed; and if not, if it commences when the asylum seekers arrive. [11833/19]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): In January and again in September of last year, the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department published a call for expressions of interest in the national press for premises to meet the increasing demand for accommodation for persons in the protection process. This accommodation is for those seeking international protection, namely asylum seekers.
This call sought expressions of interest from parties who would be interested in providing accommodation and related services on an urgent and emergency basis. This was issued in response to the urgent and unforeseen demand for accommodation and related services from those persons arriving in the state seeking international protection.
The criteria against which the Department assessed the offers of accommodation were availability, standard of property, ability to provide communal social spaces for residents, ability to cater at mealtimes and proximity to required various services.
It should be noted that these premises were offered to the Department by individual contractors across the country. The Department did not randomly choose any one location over another location.
Following on-site assessments carried out by staff in the Department, the offer of the Caislean Mara hotel in Moville, Co. Donegal was deemed to be suitable premises for the needs of the Department. At that time, the premises was available, capable of providing meals to residents and has scope to provide the required communal social areas required by residents.
Before any accommodation centre is opened, the contractor must provide certification from a registered architect/engineer that the premises meets all building regulations and that all safety equipment and alarms have been tested and verified. The Department also liaises with the relevant local authority to ensure there are no outstanding issues in relation to planning and fire safety issues.
I can confirm that the terms of the agreement have not commenced as, due to the damage done to the premises following a fire in late November 2018, the premises is not ready to open. The terms will commence once the centre has been repaired and recertified.