Minister for Justice & Equality Charlie Flanagan
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan T.D., and his colleague the Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton, T.D., have formally announced the establishment of the Expert Group on the Provision of Support, including Accommodation, to Persons in the International Protection Process (Asylum Seekers). Former Secretary General of the European Commission, Dr. Catherine Day has agreed to chair the Expert Group.
Dr. Day will be joined on the Group by Dr. Frances Ruane, Mr. Frank Daly, Mr. Conn Murray, Ms. Niamh O’Donoghue and representatives from NGOs working in this area - Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre; and the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI).
Formally announcing the establishment of the Group, Minister Flanagan said: “The Expert Group brings together a small number of highly experienced individuals to 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. I am especially pleased to have someone of the calibre of Dr. Catherine Day to lead the Group and I look forward to the outcomes of their work, which has already begun.”
Minister Flanagan continued: “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.”
Welcoming the diverse membership of the Group, Minister Stanton said: “The Expert Group includes highly talented individuals who have supported large organisations through successful change processes. Importantly, it also includes persons with direct experience of the asylum process and the reception system. Their diverse perspectives will help us to develop a sustainable long-term approach to supporting asylum seekers.”
Minister Stanton also highlighted the role that the Group will play in supporting enhanced engagement with local communities where new accommodation centres are planned to open, saying: “We have seen at first-hand the concerns of communities when new accommodation centres are first mooted in their areas. 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.”
The Ministers acknowledged the important role that elected representatives play in communities and said there would be engagement with elected members, among others.
The Group is tasked with developing long-term approaches to responding to the needs of asylum seekers in the protection process and will complete its work by the end of 2020.