185. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on whether Project Ireland 2040 falls short in delivering a proposal to provide an alternative to the direct provision scheme for asylum seekers and refugees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14521/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Direct Provision is the commonly used term to describe the support system in Ireland whereby State services including accommodation, food, health and education are directly provided to international protection applicants through the relevant Government Department or Agency.
We do not know who or how many people will arrive on our shores today or tomorrow seeking international protection but, because of our Direct Provision system, we know that all applicants, on behalf of the Irish people, are offered immediate shelter, full board accommodation and a range of services, such as health and education while their applications for international protection are in the course of being processed. Not every person who seeks international protection chooses to accept this offer, and many choose to live with colleagues, family or friends in communities across the country, as they are entitled to do.
If the system was simply disbanded, as some have been calling for, without an alternative replacement, the risks of consigning vulnerable people, who know neither our systems nor our language, to poverty, exploitation and homelessness are multiplied. No viable alternative has ever been put forward as to how the person who has unestablished needs who turns up here unexpectedly, can be looked after at an acceptable level of immediate care. In the absence of such an agreed process, any commitment to abolish a system that offers instant shelter and support, would pose a serious risk to the well-being of protection applicants and our undermine international obligations.
All systems require continual review and improvement and the government’s programme of reform undertaken since 2014, is yielding results. Calls to replace our current system accompanied by references to an unspecified ‘alternative system’ add little of value in terms of improving services for those seeking international protection in Ireland. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, and I are working with our departmental officials and across the Government to enhance and develop the entire system continually in order that the best possible set of facilities and services can be provided to those in State care. We have published three item-by-item accounts on our implementation of the recommendations in the McMahon report. The final report in July showed the considerable progress made, with 98% of the recommendations advised as being implemented in full or in advanced progress. Improvements continue to be implemented across all the facilities and services provided by my Department to those in the protection process and this work will continue until it is completed. The opt-in to the EU’s Recast Reception Directive will further improve our process, subject them to oversight and place our services on a common European standard. The opt-in process is continuing.