Working Group to report to Government on improvements to the protection process, including Direct Provision and supports to asylum seekers.

On 13 October 2014 Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald and Minister of State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin announced announced the terms of reference and the membership of the Working Group to report to Government on improvements to the protection process, including Direct Provision and supports to asylum seekers.

The establishment of the Working Group arises from the Statement of Government Priorities 2014-2016 and follows on from a roundtable consultation on the protection process with non-governmental organisations which was hosted by both Ministers. The terms of reference of the Working Group, which are set out below, are essentially concerned with respecting the dignity and improving the quality of life of applicants for international protection while their applications for international protection in the State are under investigation.

The working group is chaired by retired High Court Judge Bryan McMahon and its membership is drawn from a range of interests in the international protection area including UNHCR, non-governmental organisations, the protection seeker community, academia and relevant Government Departments and Offices. The full details of the membership of the Group are below.

In announcing the Working Group Minister Fitzgerald said, "I am confident that under Judge McMahon’s stewardship the Working Group, given its composition and the varied experience of its membership, will identify a range of practical recommendations to the Government to address the issues that have featured in much of the commentary about the direct provision system in recent times. I would urge everybody with an interest in the area to allow the Group the time to evaluate and consider the wide range of issues involved and the complex policy questions arising. I wish the Working Group well with their work and I very much look forward to receiving their recommendations.”

Minister O Ríordáin added, “As someone who has been quite critical of the Direct Provision system as it currently operates and therefore keen to see it reformed, I am very pleased that the Working Group has now been established and is about to commence its deliberations. We must ensure that protection applicants are treated with dignity and respect while awaiting the outcome of their applications and I am confident that we have assembled a group of people with the necessary expertise to assist the Government to respond effectively to the difficulties experienced by many people while they await a final decision on their applications. I am particularly mindful of the position of families and children and the need to ensure that the facilities we have in place are capable of meeting the needs of families in circumstances where their cases are ongoing for protracted periods."

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