Asylum seekers living in direct provision centres should be allowed to cook their own meals, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said.
Ms Fitzgerald told The Irish Times that while the centres will remain, facilities could be improved to ensure those in such accommodation are “self-empowered”.
The Tánaiste said the Government was making efforts to improve facilities in many centres, adding: “It is very basic for a family to be able to cook for themselves.”
Ms Fitzgerald acknowledged there was a need for improvement across all direct provision centres – including in Mosney, Co Meath, which, she said, had the best facilities.
She said the omission of the McMahon Report – which recommended changes to the direct provision system – from the Programme for Government was due to logistics and there has been no change in policy. At the start of this month, 4,439 people were living in direct provision, with 1,177 of these aged under 18.
There are 35 accommodation centres in 17 counties, with 1,009 new applications so far for asylum in 2016.
Ms Fitzgerald said the vast majority of those who were in direct provision for more than five years had been “dealt with”, with some of that group remaining unresolved because they were living in local communities.
The authorities could not contact such people, she said.
“There’s about 250 left out of thousands [longer term residents] that we are working through those cases. A lot of discretion has been shown, where they are settled in Ireland and children, in the vast majority of cases, if they are not in judicial review, we have dealt with.
“There is a kind of a response to the phrase ‘direct provision’. If we start allowing and making it easy for people to cook and have as much control as they like themselves, then direct provision won’t be there anymore.