The Head of the UN Refugee Agency is set to appear before the Oireachtas Justice Committee this morning.

Enda O'Neill will talk about how those in Direct Provision in Ireland are housed while they wait for their application to be processed.

The system for asylum seekers was introduced almost 20 years ago as an interim measure, and currently houses over 6,000 people, including more than 1,500 children.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr O'Neill said one of the issues that will be focused on at the committee meeting is the length of time applicants spend in the system.

The average wait is around two years, but some have been waiting for over five years.

Mr O'Neill said a recommendation to clear the backlog before new legislation was brought in has not been carried out.

He said that at the moment, the figure being given is that the median processing time for new applications is fifteen months.

"It's quite complicated, but one of the most important things is that the system is well coordinated across a number of different bodies and agencies," said Mr O’Neill.

"There needs to be sufficient staffing, and there's a trade-off between putting resources into the processing capacity rather than spending additional money on the reception for people."

Mr O'Neill said that one concerning development since last year is the need to use emergency homeless accommodation for those in Direct Provision.

He said that so far this year, over 500 applicants have been housed in emergency accommodation, and the cost of that for the first three months was put at €3.4 million.

He added that there is concern about so many hotels being repurposed as Direct Provision centres.

Mr O’Neill said that is an indication that the procurement model has not been successful in getting sufficient accommodation into the system.

The Government is due to begin a regional tendering process this year, looking for new and existing providers to tender for accommodation centres.

Mr O'Neill is calling on the Government to ensure that the procurement model is flexible enough to allow new organisations to come into it - such as not-for-profits - and to allow for purpose built facilities to be established if necessary.