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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 876-97
 Header Item Road Safety
 Header Item Garda Strength
 Header Item Garda Deployment
 Header Item Garda Rank
 Header Item Child Abduction
 Header Item Garda Equipment
 Header Item Alcohol Sales
 Header Item Garda Investigations
 Header Item Asylum Applications
 Header Item Liquor Licensing Laws
 Header Item Rights of Way Applications
 Header Item Asylum Seeker Accommodation
 Header Item Crime Investigation
 Header Item Human Trafficking
 Header Item Child Abduction
 Header Item Asylum Seeker Accommodation
 Header Item Liquor Licensing Laws
 Header Item Visa Applications

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 799 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 876-97

Road Safety

 876. Deputy Regina Doherty Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of new speed cameras installed for the periods, 2010, 2011 and 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16163/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am informed by the Garda authorities that the outsourced safety camera network commenced operation in November 2010 and reached full operational capacity in March 2011. The contract provides for 6,000 speed enforcement hours and 1,475 speed survey hours per month across the country. There have been no new Garda speed cameras installed for the years 2011 to 2013.

I am advised that speed enforcement zones are continually reviewed in light of survey data, collision history and local feedback to ensure that enforcement activity is properly targeted. In that regard, An Garda Síochána recently announced that a review of the existing zones has been undertaken using recent collision data from 2006 to 2012 and speed surveys. It was further announced that, as of March, 2013, an additional 243 stretches of road have been identified as having a collision history suitable for inclusion as a speed enforcement zone and that there are now a total of 727 sections of road identified as speed enforcement zones. The locations of these speed enforcement zones are in the public domain and are available on the Garda website www.garda.ie.

  Question No. 877 answered with Question No. 873.

Garda Strength

 878. Deputy Colm Keaveney Information on Colm Keaveney Zoom on Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the current personnel strength of An Garda Síochána and of the Garda Reserve and civilians whole time equivalents and the strength of community Gardaí broken down by division; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16171/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that on 28 February 2013, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the personnel strength of An Garda Síochána, the Garda Reserve, the civilian whole time equivalents and the Community Gardaí, broken down by Division, was as set out in the following table:

Division
Strength
Reserve
Civilian WTE
Community
DMR South Central
698
71
32
58
DMR South
588
46
29
59
DMR North
742
66
43
74
DMR West
744
65
47
76
DMR North Central
653
60
38
136
DMR East
419
18
23
19
Wicklow
334
36
23
20
Louth
290
48
23
20
Meath
294
38
26
13
Westmeath
255
25
22
10
Laois/Offaly
289
32
21
18
Kildare
318
27
29
0
Wexford
256
32
28
15
Waterford
286
36
29
54
Kilkenny/Carlow
297
37
26
104
Tipperary
369
36
34
96
Cork City
677
67
62
31
Cork North
303
26
23
8
Cork West
301
30
24
4
Kerry
297
32
32
10
Limerick
604
51
50
63
Clare
292
17
31
8
Galway
585
71
44
20
Roscommon/Longford
280
20
24
9
Mayo
301
35
32
4
Sligo/Leitrim
302
25
23
8
Donegal
427
32
29
24
Cavan/Monaghan
346
23
36
8


  In addition to the resources available at Divisional level, there are also Gardaí and civilian staff assigned to national units of the Garda Síochána such as the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigations and the Garda National Immigration Bureau, and at Garda headquarters.

Garda Deployment

 879. Deputy Colm Keaveney Information on Colm Keaveney Zoom on Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of Gardaí in the Drugs Unit; their location based on division; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16172/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that on 28 February 2013, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the personnel strength of the Garda National Drugs Unit and each Divisional Drugs Unit is as set out in the table below.

  Both the Garda National Drugs Unit and the Divisional units are also supported in their work by officers from other national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation. Furthermore, all Gardaí have responsibility, inter alia, to deal with drug related issues as and when they arise.

Division
Strength
Garda National Drugs Unit
56
DMR South Central
13
DMR South
26
DMR North
29
DMR West
27
DMR North Central
19
DMR East
13
Wicklow
3
Louth
7
Meath
5
Westmeath
7
Laois/Offaly
3
Kildare
1
Wexford
5
Waterford
9
Kilkenny/Carlow
8
Tipperary
8
Cork City
26
Cork North
9
Cork West
5
Kerry
8
Limerick
12
Clare
7
Galway
11
Roscommon/Longford
6
Mayo
5
Sligo/Leitrim
8
Donegal
10
Cavan/Monaghan
0

Garda Rank

 880. Deputy Colm Keaveney Information on Colm Keaveney Zoom on Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of Gardaí who hold the rank of detective; their location based on division; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16173/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Deputy will be aware that there is no rank of Detective in the Garda Síochána. Members of the Garda Síochána, at the ranks of Garda to Chief Superintendent inclusive, may be assigned to Detective duties by the Garda Commissioner. I have been informed by the Commissioner that on 28 February 2013, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the personnel strength of each Divisional Detective Unit was as set out in the following table. The Deputy will appreciate that for security and operational reasons, it is Garda policy not to disclose the number of Detective personnel assigned to individual specialist units.

Division
Strength
Garda National Drugs Unit
56
DMR South Central
13
DMR South
26
DMR North
29
DMR West
27
DMR North Central
19
DMR East
13
Wicklow
3
Louth
7
Meath
5
Westmeath
7
Laois/Offaly
3
Kildare
1
Wexford
5
Waterford
9
Kilkenny/Carlow
8
Tipperary
8
Cork City
26
Cork North
9
Cork West
5
Kerry
8
Limerick
12
Clare
7
Galway
11
Roscommon/Longford
6
Mayo
5
Sligo/Leitrim
8
Donegal
10
Cavan/Monaghan
0

Child Abduction

 881. Deputy Nicky McFadden Information on Nicky McFadden Zoom on Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the measures taken to address the issue of parental child abduction; his views on the role that mediation can play in reaching lasting agreements; if he will provide an update on the current status of the Mediation Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16178/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter As the Deputy is probably aware, there are a number of international and EU instruments which provide for the return of children who have been wrongfully removed from one contracting State to another, or wrongfully retained in another contracting State. Through these instruments, a network of Central Authorities has been established in Contracting States to facilitate applications for the return of these children. The Central Authority for International Child Abduction is part of my Department and can be contacted for assistance at 01/4790200 or by e-mail internationalchildabduction@justice.ie.

Mediation remains the best way for estranged parents and spouses to resolve their differences and reach lasting agreements that work in the best interests of the children involved. Following a Government Decision, on 1 November 2011, the Family Mediation Service became part of the Legal Aid Board. This service can help families resolve their differences before they escalate into a possible child abduction situation or the family has to resort to the Courts to solve their differences. I would encourage any family in such a situation to access these services and to do so as soon as possible.

It is my intention to bring forward, later this year, a Mediation Bill to promote mediation as a viable, effective and efficient alternative to court proceedings in civil and commercial cases, thereby reducing legal costs and speeding up the resolution of disputes. The legislation, which is currently being drafted, will introduce an obligation on solicitors and barristers to advise any person wishing to commence court proceedings to consider mediation as a means of resolving a dispute before embarking on such proceedings. It will also provide that a court may, following the commencement of proceedings, on its own initiative invite parties to consider mediation and suspend the proceedings to facilitate the mediation process.

Garda Equipment

 882. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will confirm that the Uzi personal defence weapon has been withdrawn from service in An Garda Síochána; the date when the decision to withdraw the weapon was taken; and the rationale for the decision. [16183/13]

 883. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will outline the consideration given to providing An Garda Síochána with a replacement personal defence weapon for the Uzi machine gun; and if cost considerations have prevented or delayed a decision on the matter. [16184/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 882 and 883 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, the specific arrangements made by An Garda Síochána in relation to firearms are, as operational matters, dealt with by the Garda Commissioner. In that area the Commissioner determines the appropriate measures to be put in place, including the specific firearms to be deployed, without reference to either myself or my Department.

I understand from the Garda authorities that the Uzi sub-machine gun was withdrawn from general service in An Garda Síochána in 2012. This was done in the light of overall operational arrangements made in respect of the armed capability of the Force. In view of the nature of the functions involved, it would not be appropriate to comment in detail on how the relevant Garda resources are deployed. However, the Garda authorities are satisfied that the current arrangements in place meet their operational requirements.

Alcohol Sales

 884. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if provisions will be made for smaller shops who sell alcohol who will not be able to provide structural segregation from other products and additional staff for the implementation of section 9 of the 2008 Intoxication Liquor Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16204/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The position is that the Report of the Steering Group on a National Substance Misuse Strategy, which was published last year, contains a broad range of recommendations which seek to address the negative consequences of alcohol misuse and alcohol-related harm in this country. The Department of Health is currently developing an Action Plan for submission to the Government in response to the Report's recommendations. Future arrangements for the display and sale of alcohol in mixed trading outlets such as supermarkets and convenience stores will be considered by the Government in the context of that Action Plan.

Garda Investigations

 885. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter further to the Microsoft Transparency Report, published on 21 March 2013 in which it was reported that An Garda Síochána had made 72 requests to Microsoft in respect of 222 different email and other accounts, and that in five cases, contents of emails were provided by Microsoft to An Garda Síochána and in 46 cases, non-content user information was provided by Microsoft to An Garda Síochána, if he will provide the legal basis on which the emails are being read by An Garda Síochána; the safeguards that are in place to provide oversight of the process, such as ministerial warrant; the mechanisms that are in place to ensure that no abuses take place with such access procedures; if legislation covering the interception of telecommunications messages covered digital data; and if legislation needs to be amended in this area. [16265/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter In the first place I should mention that the Report makes clear that the requests in question relate to criminal requests from law enforcement agencies or courts either by way of sub poena, court order or warrant, in other words in accordance with either statutory or court authority. The Deputy will appreciate that a wide range of statutes provide for the gathering of evidence by An Garda Síochána, whatever forms such evidence may take. For example, under section 48 of the Theft and Fraud Offences Act 2001, a member of the Garda Síochána acting under the authority of a search warrant issued by a District Court Judge may operate any computer at the place which is being searched or cause any such computer to be operated by a person accompanying the member for that purpose, and require any person at that place who appears to the member to have lawful access to the information in any such computer to cooperate with the member in question.

The Deputy will be aware that the 2011 Communications (Retention of Data) Act provides for access to traffic data, location data and subscriber data, but not content data. An application for such data may be made by a member of An Garda Siochána not below the rank of Chief Superintendent to a service provider where the data concerned is required in the context of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of a serious offence, the security of the State or the saving of human life.

With regard to interceptions, the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act, 1993 provides for the interception of telecommunications messages. Under Section 2 of the Act, the Minister may give authorisation for such interceptions and only in the interests of the security of the State or for the purpose of criminal investigation. In terms of oversight, both the 1993 and 2011 Acts provide for the appointment of a High Court Judge to carry out an annual review of their operation and the relevant reports are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on an annual basis. In addition, the Acts provide for a procedure whereby a member of the public who believes their communications have been intercepted or that their personal data has been accessed (whichever the case may be) may make a complaint to a "Complaints Referee". The Acts provides that the Complaints Referee must be a judge of the Circuit or District Courts or a practising barrister or solicitor of at least ten years standing.

Asylum Applications

 886. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of people in the asylum and related systems in direct provision at present; the number at 31 December 2010 and 31 December 2011, broken down by reference to the number of years persons are in direct provision in the case of the present numbers. [16303/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), a functional unit of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department, is responsible for the accommodation of persons under the system of direct provision while their applications for international protection are being processed. RIA itself has no function in determining whether someone should stay or not in its accommodation, except in the context of rare instances of serious and repeated misbehaviour. Its function is to provide accommodation and ancillary services to those who have sought international protection and who otherwise have no means of supporting themselves.

  In relation to the statistics below, the overall length of time taken to process cases to their finality is determined not just by the length of time taken to process the cases by the independent refugee determination bodies and by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) and but also by the length of time taken by the applicant/their legal representative to respond to requests for information, etc. In some cases applicants choose to change their legal representative and understandably it takes some time for the new representative to become familiar with the case. In many cases the applicant will not agree with the decisions reached and will continue to use every avenue open to them including referral to the Courts in that regard. This obviously impacts on the time the same applicants spend in the process and also in the Direct Provision system. While not suggesting that applicants are not entitled to the protection of the courts and to due process, a consequence of these actions is to extend the length of time the applicant spends in the Direct Provision system.

  INIS has no desire to have applicants remain in the system any longer than the minimum period it takes to process their case. However, ultimately a balance has to be struck between maintaining the integrity of the State’s protection and immigration systems and the case put forward by the individual applicant all of which must be considered within the legal requirements and obligations. In the first instance requirements are set-down in primary and secondary legislation and these requirements are constantly evolving taking into account interpretation of the law by the Courts at both national and EU level.

  As I have stated previously, the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, which I intend to re-publish, should substantially simplify and streamline the existing arrangements for asylum, subsidiary protection and leave to remain applications. It will do this by making provision for the establishment of a single application procedure, so that applicants can be provided with a final decision on all aspects of their protection application in a more straight forward and timely fashion.

  Insofar as the statistics below are concerned, it is important to note that protection applicants are not required to live in RIA accommodation and in many cases may move in and out of the direct provision system as their circumstances change. In relation to the tables below, up and including 2010 duration of stay was calculated by reference to the time that had elapsed since residents first made an application for international protection. It does not necessarily mean that those persons have lived in RIA accommodation for all of that period. Arising from the creation of a new database which allows for more detailed information, since 2011 duration of stay is calculated from the date of the latest entry into RIA accommodation, rather than from the initial protection application. It does not include past time spent by residents who left the system for a period and subsequently sought and were granted re-access to the system.

            Duration of Stay in RIA Accommodation
          Months in RIA Accom.
          0>6
          6>12
          12>18
          18>24
          24>36
          36+
          Total
          No. Persons End 2010
          522 8.7%
          449 7.5%
          476 7.9%
          529 8.8%
          1258 20.9%
          2778 46.2%
          6012
          No. Persons End 2011
          436 8.3%
          282 5.4%
          338 6.4%
          343 6.5%
          802 15.3%
          3040 58.0%
          5241
          No. Persons 11 April 2013
          400 8.4%
          453 9.6%
          333 7.0%
          218 4.6%
          481 10.2%
          2850 60.3%
          4735


  A further breakdown of those staying in RIA accommodation longer than three years cannot be provided retrospectively but is available as and from a current date - in this case 11 April, 2013.

More Detailed Breakdown of Duration of Stay - 11 April, 2013

No. of Months spent by persons in RIA accommodation centres since latest entry into Direct Provision
0 > 6
400
8.4%
6 > 12
453
9.6%
12 > 18
333
7.0%
18 > 24
218
4.6%
24 > 36
481
10.2%
36 > 48
557
11.8%
48 > 60
724
15.3%
60 > 72
621
13.1%
72 > 84
475
10.0%
84+
473
10.0%
Total
4735 persons
 

Liquor Licensing Laws

 887. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if there is any current provision similar to section 19 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2000, which was in operation for one year, to allow those who currently hold a restricted publican licence to apply for a full seven day licence; if he intends to amend existing legislation to facilitate those wishing to upgrade their licences; his views on whether introducing such a provision would provide a boost to already established and successful businesses operating under restricted licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16332/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The position is that section 19 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2000 made provision for the upgrading of restricted licences under certain conditions, including a condition that applications to the Revenue Commissioners for such upgrading be made within one year of the entry into force of the Act. I understand that a small number of restricted licences remain in existence and I intend to provide an opportunity to upgrade these remaining licences in the forthcoming Sale of Alcohol Bill.

Rights of Way Applications

 888. Deputy Jim Daly Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of applications for right of way made to the Property Registration Authority for each of the past five years; if he is satisfied with the timeframe for processing these applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16384/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Rights of way can be created either through grant by deed between the owner of the subject land and the owner of the land intended to benefit from the right, or alternatively a right of way can be shown to have been acquired by prescription. Prescription is the acquisition of such rights by the user as of right over a substantial period of time.

  Applications for registration of a Deed of Grant of Right of Way

  The number of applications for the registration of rights of way (granted by separate deed of grant by the registered owner) received by the Property Registration Authority in each of the past five years is set out hereunder:

Year
No. of Right of Way applications lodged
2008
693
2009
742
2010
784
2011
931
2012
995
Total
4145


  It can be seen that there has been a gradual increase in the number of such applications lodged between 2008 and 2012. Of the 4,145 cases lodged in this period, 27% have not been completed as replies are awaited to queries raised with the lodging party, or the applications are associated with an earlier application which is under query. I am advised by the Property Registration Authority that the average processing time for such rights is 12 to 15 months although many applications will be completed within a shorter timeframe. If a case is urgent and this is brought to the attention of the Authority, the matter will be dealt with expeditiously.
            Applications for Registration of Easements by Prescription
          Year
          No. of applications lodged for registration of easements/profits a prendre
          2011
          28
          2012
          431
          Total
          459


  These are complex applications that require a full case to be made by the applicant for the right to be registered in his/her favour. Certain proofs are required and notices must be served on all interested parties. It must be established in each case, prior to the application being approved for registration, that the right does lie in prescription and is not a right being exercised by express consent or is not a public right, customary right or right of necessity. The Property Registration Authority must be satisfied that the claim is not disputed. In view of these complexities, the fact that these are new cases and the necessity to consider each case on its own individual merits, it is not possible to give an average processing time for such applications. However, I am advised that the Authority is continuing to reduce the number of cases on hand and is confident that this will lead to improved turnaround times for all types of applications, including general rights of way.

Asylum Seeker Accommodation

 889. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding conditions in a reception an integration agency hostel. [16391/13]

 934. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the steps he has taken in relation to the complaints made to him regarding conditions at a location (details supplied) in Dublin 1; if there are unannounced inspections at centres of Direct Provision; the extent of individual audits at each centre on income and expenditure to ensure the Exchequer funding is being spent as it should; his views on whether there is an adequate, impartial and fair appeals system for residents; and if he is satisfied that proper management procedures are in place at each centre. [17145/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 889 and 934 together.

The Reception & Integration Agency (RIA) is a functional unit of the Irish Naturalisation & Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department. RIA is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers while their application for protection is being processed. These questions refer to an anonymous letter of complaint dated 26 March, 2013 signed simply "residents", in respect of a Dublin asylum accommodation centre under contract to RIA. The letter related to issues such as food provision and the management style in the centre. RIA received a copy of this correspondence, which appears to have been also copied to members of the Oireachtas, from the contractor concerned on 2 April, 2013. Coincidently, RIA had a meeting scheduled with the contractor for 3 April on other matters and the opportunity was taken to raise the letter for discussion. As the correspondence is unsigned, the option for RIA to speak with any specific resident or group of residents does not arise.

Notwithstanding the anonymity of the complaint, RIA held an 'Information Clinic' at the centre on Monday 8 April, 2013 in order to ascertain whether the issues raised in the letter had substance. These clinics provide residents of a centre with an opportunity to speak with RIA staff on a one-to-one basis, without any centre staff or other parties present. Despite advance notice of the clinic being posted up in the centre since 3 April, only two residents presented to RIA staff. A further unsigned item of correspondence dated 4 April, 2013, again similarly signed "residents", was received by RIA on 11 April, 2013. This document sets out a number of specific issues which the contractor is being asked to address.

These documents make very specific demands and are being examined in detail by both RIA and by the centre contractor who will shortly organise a general meeting with residents. It should be said that some of the demands made, such as seeking the right to have non-residents stay overnight in the centre or having residents decide who the management of the centre shall be, cannot be entertained by RIA.

It's worth making the general point that a core aim of RIA is ensuring the maintenance and improvement of standards in centres under contract to it. Any diminution in standards which comes its attention is treated very seriously by RIA, and proprietors are immediately required to make any changes and improvements deemed necessary. In this instance, RIA will ensure that any matters arising on foot of its investigations will be addressed without delay.

In relation to standards of service, all accommodation providers and other companies engaged by RIA to operate centres are required under a comprehensive Memorandum of Agreement (generically approved by the Office of the Attorney General) to ensure that the centres comply and operate in accordance with all statutory requirements of local authorities and other agencies in relation to bedroom capacity, food, food hygiene, water supply, fire safety, general safety and so forth. The contract also sets out staffing, security and management levels required for each centre.

RIA regularly conducts unannounced comprehensive full day and other informal inspections on each of the centres to ensure that the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement are being met. In addition, the RIA has for the past number of years engaged independent assessors with expertise in the field to conduct inspections on its behalf. All centres are also open to inspection by Environmental Health Officers.

It is the policy of the RIA to conduct at least twice yearly comprehensive inspections on each of the properties used to accommodate asylum seekers. The independent assessor contracted by the RIA also conducts comprehensive inspections on every centre at least once per year. These are not financial audits. RIA has a straightforward commercial contract for the provision of services to asylum seekers. On the financial side, the contracts are based on a negotiated per person, per day rate for a contracted number of residents over a specified period. The issue of RIA conducting a financial audit of the income and expenditure of a commercial provider under contract to it does not arise. For RIA, the inspection process is to ensure that the services it has contracted for are being properly provided; in other words, RIA needs to make sure it is getting what it is paying for.

Inspections are always unannounced and the inspection team look at all aspects of the accommodation centre in relation to the proprietors' obligations under the Memorandum of Agreement which covers such areas as reception, management and staff cover, menus and facilities being provided, maintenance of the property and fire and safety issues. As already indicated, information clinics where residents can raise issues on a one-to-one basis with RIA staff are undertaken regularly. There are 3 such clinics held per centre per year at a minimum. Moreover, 'bed-audits' are conducted at a selection of centres each year whereby a full detailed snapshot of service provision is taken to ensure that House Rules, contractual obligations, health and safety and other requirements have been addressed. In relation to complaints and associated appeals by residents in respect of the services provided at their centre, the mechanisms for dealing with such complaints are clearly set out in the House Rules & Procedures document given at all residents in RIA accommodation. This document is available in 12 languages (including English) and can be found on the RIA website www.ria.gov.ie.

Crime Investigation

 890. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter in the five years since the murder of a person (details supplied) the reason there has been no contact with the family by the Gardaí or Spanish police to discuss with them the way the investigation is progressing; the way in which an Irish newspaper had access to the police files for an article they published recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16425/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I have requested a report from the Garda authorities on the matters raised by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy directly when the report is to hand.

Human Trafficking

 891. Deputy Patrick Nulty Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the total resources earmarked for combatting human trafficking in 2013: if he is satisfied with the resources being deployed to deal with human trafficking; if he will detail his approach to human trafficking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16433/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Over the past number of years strong legislative, administrative and operational measures have been put in place to combat and prevent trafficking in human beings. The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, with penalties of up to life imprisonment for human trafficking, has greatly strengthened the law in this area and further legislation to extend the categories of exploitation provided for in the 2008 Act has been approved by Government and will be brought before the Oireachtas in the near future.

  A dedicated Anti-Human Trafficking Unit was established in my Department in 2008 with the purpose of ensuring that the State's response to human trafficking is coordinated and comprehensive. In addition to the dedicated Unit in my Department there are 3 other dedicated Units in State Agencies dealing with the issue: the Human Trafficking Investigation and Co-ordination Unit in the Garda National Immigration Bureau; the Anti-Human Trafficking Team in the Health Service Executive, and a specialised Human Trafficking legal team in the Legal Aid Board.

  Dedicated personnel are also assigned to deal with the prosecution of cases in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and staff in the New Communities and Asylum Seekers Unit in the Department of Social Protection facilitates victims moving into mainstream social services. There are also a wide range of training and awareness raising activities on-going and extensive consultation structures exist with Non-Governmental Organisations, International Organisations and State Agencies.

  I am satisfied with the resources committed to the fight against the trafficking of human beings into and within Ireland. This year, and for the past few years, An Garda Síochána, in its Annual Policing Plan, has identified trafficking in human beings as one of its priorities with an increased focus given to prevention and detection of human trafficking. The State provides a wide range of support services to victims of human trafficking, these include: accommodation, medical care and planning, psychological assistance, material assistance, legal aid and advice, vocational training and education. The Anti-Human Trafficking Team in the HSE develops individual Care Plans for persons who are potentially victims of human trafficking. These Care Plans include a range of issues including medical health, GP referral, counselling, psychological care, sexual health, material assistance, accommodation, training needs, education, etc. My Department also provides funding to two organisations, Ruhama and the Migrant’s Rights Centre of Ireland, who work with victims of human trafficking.

  The Government’s approach to the issue of Human Trafficking is set out in the National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Trafficking of Persons which set out 144 Actions to be undertaken to address this issue. A copy of the National Action Plan and a recently published Review of the Plan are available on the dedicated Anti-Trafficking site blueblindfold.ie. A new National Action Plan to cover the period from 2013 to 2016 is currently being drafted. In-depth reviews of Ireland’s response to human trafficking were carried out in 2012 by the Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) who visited in February and the Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) who carried out a week long country visit in November. The Report of the OSCE Special Representative was published recently and the detailed Report of GRETA will be available in the first half of 2013. I have agreed that it is prudent that we await their views on our progress before we proceed to publish the new National Action Plan. The views of these international organisations, the developments at EU level, along with consultations with other state agencies and civil society will significantly inform the direction and content of the new National Action Plan.

Child Abduction

 892. Deputy Ann Phelan Information on Ann Phelan Zoom on Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny whose rights have not been vindicated under the Hague Convention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16437/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter As the Deputy will appreciate, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on individual cases that may be the subject of an application under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Such applications are facilitated by the Central Authority for International Child Abduction which is part of my Department.

Decisions on the outcome of applications rest with the Courts of the relevant jurisdiction. I understand that the Central Authority keeps parents informed of the progress of their application and I am assured that the Central Authority continues to be in frequent contact with the applicant in this case.

Asylum Seeker Accommodation

 893. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will investigate the living conditions of asylum seekers here in particular families with children (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16483/13]

 897. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the action that is being taken to improve the living conditions of asylum seekers in direct provision centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16526/13]

 918. Deputy Robert Dowds Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will provide an update on the commitment in the Programme for Government to review the system of direct provision for asylum seekers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17014/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 893, 897 and 918 together.

  The first of these questions specifically refers to a letter written to the Deputy by a constituent who was concerned about what he had read in an Irish Times opinion article on 23 March, 2013 about children residing in the 35 asylum accommodation centres currently under contract to the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department. There are approximately 4,800 persons in these 35 centres, about a third of whom are children under the age of 18.

  The Direct Provision system remains a key pillar of the State's asylum and immigration system. I, and previous Ministers for Justice and Equality, have explained in response to previous Dáil Questions how the normal structures dealing with homelessness could not cope when the number of asylum seekers arriving in Ireland increased dramatically, and how the Direct Provision system was the only realistic accommodation solution. There are no cheaper alternatives to the direct provision system. In fact, if we were operating a system which facilitated asylum seekers in living independent lives in individual housing with social welfare support and payments, aside from the asylum 'pull factor' it would likely create, the cost to the exchequer would be double what is currently paid under the direct provision system. This was a key finding in the recent Value for Money Report on the direct provision system which was published in 2010 and is on the RIA website - www.ria.gov.ie.  I have also explained the nature of the full board accommodation system provided; how RIA coordinates through other Government bodies a number of ancillary services to residents; how residents are offered free medical screening on arrival in the State and have access to health services; and how residents have access to primary and secondary education services, on the same basis as Irish citizens.

  I will concentrate here on the issue of child protection which was the focus of the article. RIA takes the issue of child welfare, and the protection of residents generally, very seriously. RIA has had a child protection policy, based on the HSE's Children First Policy, in place since 2006. There is a specific unit in RIA called the Child and Family Services Unit, which is fully staffed and whose role is to manage, deliver, coordinate, monitor and plan all matters relating to child and family services for all asylum seekers residing in the direct provision system. It also acts as a conduit between RIA and the HSE, the latter having statutory functions in this area. Moreover, all staff in centres must be Garda vetted and comply with RIA's child protection policy, a copy of which is available on its website - www.ria.gov.ie. This is in furtherance of RIA's policy which has as its principal aim the minimisation of risk to children and vulnerable adults residing in its centres.

  More generally, the rights of residents in RIA centres are, put simply, protected in three ways: (a) RIA's House Rules and Procedures which set out the type and standard of service that an asylum seeker should expect whilst residing in direct provision accommodation. The Rules set out the entitlements and obligations placed on centre management and on residents and, in the event that these aren't being met, a complaints procedure to be invoked by either party. This complaints system is considered by RIA to be broadly in line with the guidelines set out by the Office of the Ombudsman for ‘internal complaints systems’. (b) Over and above the House Rules themselves, the interests of asylum seekers are protected through regular 'clinics' in centres where residents can speak directly to RIA headquarters staff one-on-one without local centre management being present. (c) Inspections take place in centres, by RIA staff and by an independent company contracted to RIA, to ensure that centres are adhering to their contractual obligations. In the coming few months RIA will begin to publish on its website completed inspection reports on each of the centres under contract to it. It cannot be emphasised enough that all inspections are unannounced. Inspections are not to be confused with ordinary day-to-day visits to centres by RIA staff in connection with operational, health or educational matters where management would know of their arrival in advance. Moreover, issues of concern are also brought to the attention of RIA by representatives of statutory or voluntary agencies working with asylum seekers, as was the case here. In no circumstance does a transfer take place because of a complaint made.

  In relation to the issue of space, including the sharing of bedrooms and toilet facilities which is raised in the article, there are a number of things to be said. Firstly, in sourcing accommodation RIA must ensure that the basic legal conditions, in terms of capacity and toilet and bathroom facilities, are met. Secondly, in relation to room sharing, where it comes to RIA's attention that accommodation is not suitable for a family where, for example, its size has increased, alternative accommodation in another centre is offered. In some cases, this offer is not accepted and families prefer to stay in a centre. Thirdly, in relation to families having to share bathrooms, a majority of families living in the system have sole access to their own bathroom and toilet facilities. Whilst the nature of Direct Provision is such that en suite facilities are not guaranteed, RIA will continue to seek over time to increase the percentage of families having access to non-shared bathroom/toilet facilities.

  In relation to 'de-skilling', also mentioned in the article, the existing statutory position in Ireland provides that an asylum seeker shall not seek or enter employment. This prohibition is retained in the Immigration Residence and Protection Bill 2010 which I intend to republish later this year. Extending the right to work to asylum seekers would almost certainly have a profoundly negative impact on application numbers, as was experienced in the aftermath of the July 1999 decision to do so.

  In relation to the broader asylum issue, I acknowledge that the length of time spent in direct provision and the complexity of the asylum process is an issue to be addressed. No specific reference is made in the Programme for Government to the Direct Provision system. But that system is inextricably linked to the surrounding asylum process and in the Programme there is a specific commitment to introduce comprehensive reforms of the immigration, residency and asylum systems. The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, which I intend to re-publish, should substantially simplify and streamline the existing arrangements for asylum, subsidiary protection and leave to remain applications. It will do this by making provision for the establishment of a single application procedure, so that applicants can be provided with a final decision on all aspects of their protection application in a more straight forward and timely fashion.

  Pending the enactment and commencement of the new legislation and with a view to improving processing, I am proposing to introduce new arrangements for the processing of subsidiary protection applications in light of recent judgments in the Superior Courts. My Department, in consultation with the Attorney General's Office, is developing a new legislative and administrative framework for the processing of current and future subsidiary protection applications. This work is being given high priority and applicants will be advised of the new arrangements as soon as possible.

Liquor Licensing Laws

 894. Deputy Kevin Humphreys Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will consider amending the licensing laws to allow premises such as pubs to open on Good Friday if they so wish and serve alcohol; the reasons for the current ban; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16509/13]

 895. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if any consideration has been given to changing the law to allow pubs to serve alcohol on Good Friday and Christmas Day; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16519/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 894 and 895 together.

The position is that the Government Legislation Programme provides for publication of the Sale of Alcohol Bill in late 2013. It is intended that the Bill will modernise the law relating to the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol in licensed premises and registered clubs, including the statutory provisions relating to times when alcohol may be sold, by repealing the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2011 and the Registration of Clubs Acts 1904 to 2008 and replacing them with streamlined and updated provisions. The statutory provisions restricting the sale of alcohol on Good Friday and Christmas Day, which have historical origins, will be examined in that context.

Visa Applications

 896. Deputy John Browne Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will reopen and reinvestigate a visa application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16521/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The visa application referred to by the Deputy was refused at first instance on 12 November, 2012 and an appeal against this decision was received in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) Dublin on 17 December, 2012. Following a full re-consideration by the Appeals Officer, the original decision to refuse was upheld on 4 March, 2013, as the finances available to the reference in Ireland were deemed insufficient and therefore the granting of the visa could result in a cost to public funds and public resources. Each visa application is entitled to one appeal only. However, it is open to the person concerned to make a fresh application at any time in the future should they be in a position to address the issues of concern raised by the Visa Officer.

Queries in relation to general immigration matters may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

  Question No. 897 answered with Question No. 893.


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