UNHCR welcomes Oireachtas Committee report on Direct Provision and the International Protection process
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has welcomed the publication of the Report on Direct Provision and the International Protection Application process by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality.
Four years after the publication of the McMahon report, the Agency said the Committee's cross-party recommendations provide a timely call to action to implement key outstanding McMahon Report recommendations while also looking to the future with a clear vision on how further reforms of the accommodation system should be tied to clear national policy objectives to promote the integration of migrants and refugees.
"Significant improvements have been made to direct provision and the application process for asylum-seekers since 2015" said Enda O'Neill, Head of Office with UNHCR Ireland. "Focus should now turn to completing the McMahon reform process and implementing the key remaining recommendations identified by the Committee. In particular, a clear time-line is needed for the creation of a new system of independent inspections to drive improvements and to enforce implementation of the new standards, possibly by extending the remit of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) into this area."
The Committee also recommended the establishment of a Refugee Advisory Board, as was previously recommended by the McMahon Report, to provide oversight and monitoring of the international protection application process and reception system. The committee's focus on this issue, and its proposal to adequately resource decision making bodies, remains the most effective mechanism against prolonged stays in direct provision and poor integration outcomes, said UNHCR.
"As acknowledged by the committee, the length of time protection applicants have to wait for a final decision on their claim remains the key factor affecting applicants' experiences in the Direct Provision system. In order to ensure applicants spend the shortest time possible in the process and to prevent further backlogs, adequately resourcing of the International Protection Office and International Protection Appeals Tribunal is essential."
UNHCR also welcomed the committee's focus on the importance of early integration. According to the Agency, introducing a legal requirement for local authorities to develop integration strategies for asylum applicants would help foster cohesive communities and promote diversity and equality.
"Interagency committees established in counties to support resettled refugees from Syria have already demonstrated the effectiveness of local responses to support integration. There is no reason why this approach could not also be extended to coordinate the provision of support services to asylum seekers to bolster the many welcome groups that have been established in places such as Macroom and Ballaghadereen to foster local links.