The Government has announced the establishment of a special group to examine the supports afforded to asylum seekers, including direct provision, which will be chaired by a former secretary general of the European Commission.
It will be tasked with advising on the development of a long-term approach to the provision of supports to asylum seekers, and identifying best practice in European countries.
The group is chaired by Catherine Day, former secretary general of the European Commission, and its membership includes Frances Ruane, a former director of the Economic and Social Research Institute; Nama chairman Frank Daly; Niamh O’Donoghue, a former secretary general of the Department of Social Protection; Conn Murray, a former CEO of Limerick City and County Council; Fiona Finn, CEO of Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre; and Bulelani Mfaco, a representative of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) group.
The Justice Minister, Charlie Flanagan, described the investigating panel as “a small number of highly experienced individuals” who will “devise long-term approaches to supporting asylum seekers”.
“I am pleased that we can draw on their expertise to see if there are new ways in which we can better meet the needs of asylum seekers and ensure we can adapt quickly to any variations in demand,” said Mr Flanagan.
This is a complex issue for all EU member states and there is no doubt that we have just to learn from each other.
"While substantial improvements have been made to our reception system in recent years, we are constantly looking to improve our service.
"In particular, I want to see better medium- and long-term planning embedded in our thinking.
“Dr Day’s experience as secretary general to the EU Commission is particularly important and valuable, and the group will engage with member states as well as the European Asylum Support Office to identify systems and practices that could potentially be used here.”
David Stanton, the minister of state for equality, immigration and integration, said it is important that the group contains individuals with direct experience of the asylum process and the reception system.
“We have seen at first hand the concerns of communities when new accommodation centres are first mooted in their areas,” said Mr Stanton.
“While we have recently had successful outcomes in opening new centres in Borrisokane, in Ballinamore, and in Ennis, the expert group will look at how we can engage more effectively with communities so that we can work together to respond to the needs of asylum seekers and of local residents.
"This is essential for successful integration opportunities.”