Header Item Written Answers Nos. 151 - 158
 Header Item Anti-Racism Measures
 Header Item Legislative Measures
 Header Item Asylum Seeker Accommodation
 Header Item Garda Vetting Applications

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 841 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 151 - 158

Anti-Racism Measures

 151. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her views on a national action plan on racism following the 85% increase in reports of racism to the Immigrant Council of Ireland during 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21672/14]

 163. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her plans to combat racism in view of an 85% increase in reports to the Immigrant Council of Ireland in 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21744/14]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 151 and 163 together.

The Government is firmly committed to combating and challenging any and all manifestations of racism and welcomes the contribution which the Immigrant Council of Ireland and others are making to this work.

I understand that the reports to which the Deputies' questions refer are preliminary figures released by the Immigrant Council on 7 December 2013 which indicated that 142 racist incidents had been reported to the Council between January and 7 December 2013. That figure compared with 77 racist incidents reported to the Council in the corresponding period in 2012. The report also indicated that the majority of incidents involved verbal harassment (35%), written harassment (17%), non-verbal harassment e.g offensive look or gesture (7%), discrimination and social inclusion (24%), property damage and racist graffiti (7%). Nine per cent of incidents involved physical violence.

Ireland was one of the first states in the EU and, indeed, in the world in developing a National Action Plan Against Racism. When the National Action Plan Against Racism was launched in 2005, it was conceived as a four-year programme to run until the end of 2008. It was designed to provide strategic direction towards developing a more intercultural and inclusive society in Ireland and was also integration driven. Under the Plan, support was provided towards the development of a number of national and local strategies promoting greater integration in our workplaces, in An Garda Síochána, the health service, in our education system, in the arts and sports sectors and within our local authorities. The National Action Plan therefore continues to inform ongoing work.

The Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration in my Department maintains the Government's commitment and focus on anti-racism as a key aspect of integration, diversity management and broader national social policy. The Office continues to work with all the relevant sectors to further progress the integration and diversity management agenda. Many of the initiatives which were instigated through the National Action Plan against Racism 2005-2008 continue to be developed and progressed through the support and work of the Office.

A review of our approach to the integration of migrants was recently launched. This review is intended to provide the basis for a new and updated integration strategy in keeping with the Government’s commitment to the integration of migrants and will embrace the issue of racism. A consultation process was also commenced on 28 March 2014. A considerable number of submissions have already been received from stakeholders, a number of whom will be invited to engage directly with the Cross-Departmental Group on Integration charged with updating the integration strategy. I expect that the Draft Integration Strategy, when developed, will include a strong anti-racism component.

Legislative Measures

 152. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald in respect of the European Commission on 30 January 2014 adopting the implementing Regulation (EU) No. 118/2014 which outlines the rules for application of the Dublin III regulations, when a statutory instrument will be introduced to amend or replace the 2003 order to give full effect to the new EU regulations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21679/14]

 153. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald in respect of the European Commission implementing Regulation (EU) No. 118/2014 which relates only to the previous Dublin II regulations, the way her Department in practical terms will operate the order in relation to the Dublin III which became effective on 1 January 2014; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21680/14]

 154. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if her Department is currently making determinations in accordance with the regulations as to which member states are responsible for processing applications for international protection; if the current practice is conforming to EU law; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21681/14]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 152, 153 and 154 together.

Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 was adopted in June 2013 and applies to applications for international protection lodged as from 1 January 2014. This Regulation is generally referred to as the Dublin Regulation and establishes the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person. The Regulation adopted in June 2013 is a recast of an earlier Regulation adopted in February 2003. Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 118/2014 was adopted in January 2014 for the purpose of amending an earlier Regulation adopted in September 2003 laying down detailed rules for the application of the Dublin Regulation.

In accordance with Article 288 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union these Regulations have general application and are binding in their entirety and directly applicable in all Member States including, in this case, Ireland. The operation in Ireland of the Dublin Regulation is supported by the Refugee Act 1996 (Section 22) Order 2003 (S.I. No. 423 of 2003). This Order deals primarily with the functions of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and my Department in relation to the operation of the Dublin Regulation in Ireland.

Consultations between my Department and the Office of the Attorney General are ongoing in relation to changes to the national regulatory framework to facilitate the smooth operation in Ireland of the recast Dublin Regulation. It appears that the most likely outcome of these consultations is that it will be necessary to amend or replace the Order made under section 22 of the Refugee Act. In any event, it is intended to maintain the key roles in the operation of the Dublin Regulation in Ireland which are currently assigned to the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal by the Order of 2003.

Under section 6 of the Refugee Act the Refugee Applications Commissioner is independent in the exercise of his or her functions under the Act. The Commissioner has informed my Department that, in respect of third-country nationals applying for asylum in Ireland, he is, for the time being, availing of the option provided by Article 17 of the recast Dublin Regulation to decide to examine such an application. In these circumstances the Dublin Regulation provides that Ireland shall become the Member State responsible and shall assume the obligations associated with that responsibility.

  Questions Nos. 155 and 156 answered with Question No. 149.

Asylum Seeker Accommodation

 157. Deputy Robert Dowds Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the position regarding conditions in the Clondalkin Towers Refugee Centre, Ninth Lock Road, Dublin 22; her plans to improve conditions in this centre; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21688/14]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Clondalkin Towers asylum accommodation centre is one of five centres located within the Dublin area currently under contract to the Reception & Integration Agency (RIA), a functional unit of the Irish Naturalisation & Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department. That centre currently accommodates 222 persons. Overall, almost 4,300 asylum seekers are accommodated in 34 centres under contract to RIA located in 16 counties within the State.

  It is not clear from the Deputy's question as to whether there are specific issues of concern. If so, he is welcome to communicate them directly to RIA for investigation. In general, it is the policy of RIA to conduct at least three comprehensive unannounced inspections each year on each of the centres under contract to it. Two of these inspections are carried out by RIA staff and one is carried out by an independent assessor contracted by RIA. All completed inspection reports on RIA centres, including Clondalkin, carried out since 1 October 2013, have been published on RIA's website - www.ria.gov.ie. This website also provides a range of information and statistics that the Deputy may find useful. Further, all centres are also open to inspection by Environmental Health Officers of the HSE and by other statutory bodies.

  The Direct Provision system has been in place for 14 years and no system can remain static. RIA keeps the services provided at Clondalkin Towers and elsewhere under continuous review and will seek to adapt and improve conditions in centres for the benefit of residents.

Garda Vetting Applications

 158. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she has, or will, examine the regulations for Garda vetting; if she will consider amending the regulations to make Garda vetting portable for a period of up to two years to allow for the reduction of waiting times and assist in easing the process for those who wish to do voluntary work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21729/14]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Deputy may wish to note that the current average processing time for vetting applications is four weeks which is a significant improvement on this time last year when it stood at 12 weeks. Vetting procedures in this country are in place to protect children and vulnerable adults. As such they demand rigorous procedures to ensure their integrity and to maintain the highest level of confidence by the public and organisations availing of them. A full vetting check is conducted for each new application received to ensure that the most recent data available is taken into account. The non-transferability and contemporaneous nature of the certificate protects against the risk of fraud or forgery and is a guarantee of the integrity of the vetting service. It also affords the registered organisation the facility to assess suitability based on the most up to date information available on the applicant. The Deputy will appreciate that the safety of children and vulnerable adults is the primary consideration and this must remain the case.

There are certain limited circumstances where organisations can share a single vetting where this is agreed to by the vetting applicant. For example, persons involved in voluntary work may be doing work with more than one voluntary organisation at the same time, and may agree with the vetting applicant to share a single vetting disclosure. Similar arrangements arise in the health sector in regard to persons working as locums, agency nurses or other temporary employees in a number of different organisations, at the same time, or in the education sector where substitute teachers are on panels for substitute teaching in more than one school at the same time.

Elements of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 relating to the disclosure of convictions are under review at present. It is intended to bring proposals before the Oireachtas to provide that certain old minor convictions will not be disclosed under the provisions of the 2012 Act. However, very careful consideration would need to be given to any proposal to provide that a person who has been Garda vetted with one organisation can move to a different organisation without having to reapply for a new clearance from the Garda vetting section.

This is because once there has been any significant time lapse between one employment and another, the original Garda Vetting Disclosure would not include information regarding any recent criminal convictions, and the second employer could not safely rely on it. Under the Data Protection Acts, any sensitive personal data which employers use in regard to their employees must be current, accurate and up-to-date. Separately, employers would be exposed to civil liability if they knowingly recruited staff based on out-of-date criminal records information where the person in fact has a more recent criminal conviction.

Should vetting be allowed to be portable for a period of two years that would mean that no conviction committed in that two year period would be disclosed which, from a child protection perspective, would have obvious dangers.


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