519. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the findings of a report (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25112/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The
Report of the Working Group to Report to Government on Improvements to the Protection Process, including Direct Provision and Supports to Asylum Seekers, also known as the Justice McMahon report, was published in June 2015. Its recommendations have implications for a number of Government Departments and services.
My Department has since published three progress reports on the implementation of its 173 recommendations; the first in June 2016, the second in February of 2017 and a third and final report in July of 2017. All three reports are available to view on my Department's website www.justice.ie.
The final progress report shows that 133 recommendations have been reported as fully implemented and a further 36 are in progress or partially implemented. This represents a 98% full or partial implementation rate.
The Working Paper dated December 2017, referred to by the Deputy, acknowledges that considerable progress has been made, and in particular highlights as “significant improvements” developments such as the introduction of the Single Procedure in the International Protection Act, 2015; general improvements in living conditions; and the Government’s decision to opt-in to the Reception Conditions Directive.
The improvements to living conditions for applicants for international protection have been significant over recent years. These include the implementation of self or communal catering arrangements in a number of accommodation centres. As a result of this initiative, over 1,500 residents are now able to prepare meals of their own choosing. In addition, there have been improvements to a number of outdoor playgrounds and football pitches to provide for ‘all-weather’ facilities and the introduction of teenagers rooms in centres to provide social areas for this age group. Friends of the Centre groups have also been established in each centre. This initiative aims to bring residents, community and voluntary groups together with a view to increasing integration opportunities and providing for the development of greater community linkages with the residents and the centre.
Following on from the McMahon Report, a Standards Advisory Group was set up in 2017. The work of this group is to build on the recommendations of McMahon and to develop a set of standards for accommodation provided for those people seeking the protection of the State. The Standards will meet the minimum standards set out in the Recast Reception Conditions Directive and EASO Guidance on Reception Conditions: Operational Standards and Indicators and will also take account of national developments in the provision of services to those in the protection process. They will take due cognisance of the responsibility to promote equality, prevent discrimination and protect the human rights of employees, customers, service users and everyone affected by policies and plans as defined by the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty. The group is comprised of members from a range of organisations supporting refugees as well as staff from a number of government Departments and will deliver a Working Document in September 2018 following widespread consultation.
The Government approved an opt into the EU (Recast) Reception Conditions Directive (2013/33/EU). The decision to opt-in to the Directive will bring Ireland into line with our EU partners and place the entire system on a legislative basis, which will be subject to EU oversight. This is a significant and positive measure, not only in addressing the issue of labour market access, but also extending to children’s rights, rights for unaccompanied minors, vulnerable people, new appeals processes, healthcare and education provision. By opting into the Directive, another important recommendation of the Justice McMahon report will be implemented bringing Ireland into line with the European Union norms.
I remain fully committed to working with all stakeholders, some of whom will have differing views on the extent of implementation of some recommendations, to ensure the continuing implementation of a wide range of reforms in this area, including those recommended by the Justice McMahon report.