State struggling to provide services for refugees

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan

The Government is experiencing an “inability” to find accommodation to house people caught up in the mass migration crisis and providing them with the necessary services is emerging as a “very significant issue”.

The Department of Justice’s Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) is also having problems finding further facilities here to accommodate asylum seekers from Greece who are fleeing strife in the Middle East and beyond.

In a briefing document to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, the department said that 459 asylum seekers had arrived from Greece. Some 183 of these are children, comprising 70 aged 0-4, 82 aged 5-12, and 31 aged 13-17.

It said 38 had been housed in the community using both local authority housing and accommodation pledged to the Red Cross.

It said about 100 more were due to be housed over the next two months and a further 160 in the third quarter of this year.

Officials said 344 asylum seekers have been interviewed for relocation and 264 of those have been cleared for entry to Ireland.

“It is envisaged that Ireland will have met its commitment for 1,040 by September 2017,” it said.

But the department added: “The challenge for the IRPP is scaling up the programme sufficiently to deal with the unprecedented numbers arriving and to put in place plans to disperse arrivals in multiple counties.”

Two full pages in the briefing document are redacted, but it does publish what it says are the three “main issues” arising:

  • Difficulties in procuring further emergency reception and orientation centres (EROCs) in which to accommodate arrivals, which in turn slows the rate at which asylum seekers can be brought from Greece to Ireland.
  • Inability to find suitable accommodation in communities in a reasonable timeframe for those who are ready to move out of EROCs and into the community.
  • Difficulties with service provision to our arrivals whether in EROCs or in the community. This is emerging as a very significant issue.

Elsewhere in the 149-page briefing document, officials say that 4,000 people were refused leave to land at ports of entry last year.

The report said officials were “urgently examining” the impact of a Supreme Court judgement last May on the right of asylum seekers to work.

It said there were high-profile judicial reviews ongoing with “potentially significant impact” on the department, including a review seeking to prevent the enforcement of deportation orders and claims for damages in relation to delays in processing cases.

The report said €300m of inward investment had been attracted through the Immigrant Investor Programme — which grants Irish residence to “high net worth” people from outside the European Economic Area.

However, the report said despite an ongoing campaign by NGOs for an earned regularisation programme for undocumented migrants, government statements had said it “cannot engage in a general regularisation programme”.

In the policing division section, the department said that a recent report by the Policing Authority highlighted its concerns at the slow pace of civilianisation in An Garda Síochána.

“This presents a potential risk to the wider reform programme,” said the department.

“In view of the concerns raised, the minister requested the Garda commissioner for a response with a view to a meeting thereafter to discuss how any blockages can be overcome.”

At the date of publication of the briefing document, last month, it said that response was awaited.

While the department said that Budget 2017 provided funding for 500 civilians, the Policing Authority has approved 137.

It said the commissioner’s five-year workforce plan, which was required by the authority by the end of 2016, was still “outstanding”.

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