The Chair of the Expert Group on Direct Provision, Dr Catherine Day, wants the right to work for asylum seekers to be extended, for alternative housing models to house those seeking protection to be explored, and for compulsory training for those who run direct provision centres.

These are among a number of recommendations in a briefing document written by Dr Day.

A move away from emergency accommodation to house asylum seekers, clear guidance so all international protection applicants can open bank accounts, and Department of Transport involvement in working towards providing asylum seekers with access to driving licences are also recommended.

The briefing note also included recommendations to reduce the amount of time it takes to process positive decisions, for their to be binding standards for centres to be applied and enforced by January 2021 and to ensure vulnerability assessments take place.

The Department of Justice and Equality released details of the briefing note this evening and said it had been circulated to TDs and Senators.

In a press release, it said that that the list of measures identified by Dr Day "would immediately improve the situation of those currently in Direct Provision" and that Dr Day had signalled "her desire that changes will be made".

Direct Provision

It also said that the Ministers in Department "have instructed their officials to have proposals on all these issues ready to be considered by the incoming government".

However, the CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, and member of the Expert Group, Nick Henderson told RTÉ News that he could not comment on the details that had been released by the Department.

Mr Henderson said that he understood that the workings of the Expert Group were confidential for the time being, and it was his understanding that the Department of Justice was aware of this.

"The Irish Refugee Council will continue to be advocating for an end to Direct Provision and the implementation of alternatives," he added. 

According to the most recent Asylum Information Database (AIDA) report, there are currently 5,963 people living across 47 Direct Provision centres in the country.

While 1,633 asylum seekers are living in 33 emergency accommodation centres (up from 114 people in five locations in 2018).

The Expert Group had been asked to report back by the end of the year, however according to the statement issued by the Department of Justice and Equality, Dr Day has informed it that the group now aims to complete its work by the end of September.  

Separately, the Department has also confirmed that it will conduct a review into the handling of Covid-19 and Direct Provision accommodation.

In a statement Mr Flanagan said: "How Ireland treats its minorities including those seeking asylum has been at the forefront of many of our minds recently.

"This is due both to the stress Covid-19 has placed on the Direct Provision system and also the way in which some have drawn parallels with recent events in America.

"Minister Stanton and I welcome that focus as we believe that root and branch reform of the system and the policy behind it is required."