218. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to increase the capacity of a centre (details supplied) to accommodate additional asylum seekers and their families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12257/19]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): The facility at St. Margaret's Road, Balseskin, County Dublin is a reception centre contracted by my Department to provide initial reception services to persons entering the state and seeking international protection.
During their stay in Balseskin, protection applicants are offered health screening and are processed for PPS numbers and medical cards. The purpose of Balseskin is to provide a short orientation period before residents are accommodated in centres around the country.
The current contracted capacity at Balseskin is 350 persons and the current occupancy is 289 persons.
Balseskin plays a pivotal role in the direct provision process as it allows for the delivery of necessary supports and services to persons newly arrived in the state. The issuing of PPS numbers and medical cards allows those seeking international protection in Ireland to access direct provision allowances and medical supports once accommodated in a centre.
The Reception and Integration Agency is in negotiations with the contractor for Balseskin about upgrading the site to meet the increasing demands for services. This upgrade will include the construction of a modern medical centre located away from the accommodation blocks and will enable HSE staff to deliver a quality health service to residents. As part of the upgrade works, a new accommodation block will be constructed on the site of the existing medical block which will provide an additional 137 bed spaces. The additional capacity is necessary to respond to the increased number of persons claiming international protection.
It is worth noting, however, that while the current capacity is 350 persons, Balseskin has had a higher capacity previously and from 2001 to 2003, it was contracted to provide 423 bedspaces.