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Written Answers. - Departmental Correspondence.

Tuesday, 3 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 4

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 357. Ms Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall  asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell  if his attention has been drawn to the continued inaccessibility by phone of the visa and immigration section of his Department; if he will correct this wholly unsatisfactory arrangement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24294/02]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell The immigration and citizenship division in my Department has to deal with a massive and continuing increase in its customer base in recent years. For example, the number of non-EEA nationals registered with the Garda Síochána in 2001 was 90,446. This represents a 92% increase on the number registered in 2000, which was 47,262. The figures for 1999 and 1998 were 29,646 and 22,546, respectively. In addition, the division has to provide certain services for persons who wish to travel to the State – 32,000 visa applications in 2001 – as well as asylum see[1122] kers and other classes of immigrants within the State.

The division, which includes the visa office, recently relocated to new premises in Burgh Quay. As part of this relocation a new telephone system was installed with a view to improving access to the division through designated helplines, along with the provision of recorded information messages which should reduce the need to speak to an operator. In the interests of better customer service and more efficient use of staff time, a decision was made to try to minimise time spent on phone calls and maximise the time available for decision-making.

If a person makes a call to the division on either (01) 6167700 or locall 1890 551 500, the caller will get through to an automated message service giving them several options depending on the nature of the query and an option to get through to a switchboard operator. There are a number of helplines in operation which can only be accessed through either of the above numbers within their respective hours of operation. These helplines and their respective hours of operation are as follows: visas on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m.; general immigration daily, from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; citizenship on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. There have been some technical difficulties with the new telephone system which are being addressed between my Department and the service provider.

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