Yesterday, the Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly launched a well reasoned critique of the direct provision system (news coverage here and all Human Rights in Ireland’s posts on direct provision here ). This follows on from Ombudsman O’Reilly’s most recent investigation relating to an asylum seeker refused a social welfare payment that she was entitled to.While the Ombudsman is prevented from investigating maladministration in immigration and naturalisation issues, so the Irish Nationality and Immigration Service is beyond its supervisory powers, the governmental departments responsible for the direct provision system are not. These include the Department of Justice and Equality, through the provision of accommodation via the Reception and Integration Agency and the Department of Social Protection , through making direct provision allowance payment of €19.10 per week per adult and €9.60 per week per child._Although as I have noted on a number of occasions, the Department is prohibited from making this payment by virtue of Irish social welfare law.
The reliance on administrative system of direct provision that actively undermined statutory rights for a significant period between 2000-2009 shows how easily legal rights, in particular legislative rights under social welfare law, can be placed at naught through:
- A Parliament subservient to the Executive,
- An Executive intent on impoverishing an unpopular group in society,
- Public disinterest in the rights of asylum seekers and/or an active hostility towards those claiming asylum;
- Those administering the social welfare system allowing their discretion to be fettered by government circulars (and ignoring law) ;
- Courts that are wary of impinging or in any way recognising rights of life, bodily integrity, and family rights as including any form of social and economic protections.
Despite a steady stream of Parliamentary questions on the system of direct provision in the last number of weeks, there seems to be no appetite for reform in Government. Although Emily O’Reilly will be setting off to Europe shortly, it would be hoped that the interest of the Ombudsman’s office on the issue of direct provision will continue.
On Saturday, 2 March 2013 the Department of Justice and Equality hosted a seminar on Constitutional Reform in relation to the Courts in Ireland. While the need for such reform is quite clear, it is surprising that there is not a similar impetus to ensure access to justice for all in Ireland. The Programme for Government of the Fine Gael and Labour coalition gave a commitment to create a permanent Civil Court of Appeal and the establishment of a distinct and separate family court. Referenda will be held in the Autumn on proposals to reform some of the current court structures. The impetus for such reform is set out in Minister Shatter’s speech delivered to the seminar. Long delays in the Supreme Court and the the cost to individuals and business in having such long waiting times for disputes to be ultimately determined is a core driving factor for this reform. Minister Shatter also noted Ireland’s obligations under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to speedy determination of disputes) and the domestic transposition measure, the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003. The Chief Justice, Susan Denham, in her contribution echoed the sentiments of Minister Shatter noting:
The current situation in the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeal is unsustainable, it is untenable, it cannot be defended. An appeal certified as ready yesterday is in danger of not getting a date for hearing until mid 2017. The most recent appeals from the general list that have been given dates were certified in July 2008. All other things being equal and without any measure of priority, an appeal certified as ready yesterday is in danger of not being given a date until mid 2017, effectively a four and a half year waiting time.
Denham CJ’s speech was reported widely in the media (see here, here, here and here). One of the interesting aspects to this reporting was the focus on how effective systems of adjudication and dispute resolution is needed as it may damage Ireland’s economy into the future. While not quite a rallying call for “the best small country in the work in which to do business” Continue reading “The Rule of Law and Access to Justice in Ireland”
Some 12 years after the introduction of the direct provision system for asylum seekers in Ireland, there is an urgent need for this system to be placed on a legislative basis. Asylum seekers are prohibited from working in Ireland and, since 2009, have no access whatsoever to the general social welfare system. Instead, asylum seekers are provided with accommodation on a bed and board basis, and given an allowance of €19.10 per week per adult and €9.60 per week per child. I have previously discussed issues relating to direct provision on this blog, including value for money, housing and human rights, children in the direct provision system, separated children in Ireland, women in the direct provision system.
Direct provision was introduced in April 2000 due to the perceived pull factor access to the mainstream welfare system was supposedly having on the numbers claiming asylum in Ireland. (My article on the direct provision system provides further background to the introduction of this system). The purported legal basis for the introduction of the system of direct provision was the system of supplementary welfare allowance, whereby the needs of asylum seekers were to be met in kind, through the provision of bed, board and a small allowance. It was not until 2003 that legislation was introduced to prevent asylum seekers from receiving rent allowance. The habitual residence condition was introduced shortly afterwards, which restricted access to welfare payments for those who were not habitually resident in Ireland.
From freedom of information documents that I have received from the Department of Social Protection Continue reading “Reception Conditions for Asylum Seekers in Ireland: The Need for a Legislative Basis”