Seminar 5th Feb 2015 (Trans)Gender Recognition in Germany: The Role of the German Courts

UCD SSLThe Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) and UCD Human Rights Network and UCD Sutherland School of Law invites you to a keynote address from Prof. Dr. Johanna Schmidt-Räntsch, Judge of the German Supreme Court, on

“(Trans)Gender Recognition in Germany: The Role of the German Courts”

Date: Thursday, 05 February 2015

Time: 6.30pm-8.30pm

Location: William Fry Theatre, UCD Sutherland School of Law (directions and map)

A reception will follow Prof. Dr. Schmidt-Räntsch’s keynote address.

2 CPD Points available for practitioners

There is no charge for this event, however registration is required. You can register here. For registration enquires, please contact law.events@ucd.ie . This event will be of interest to the Trans community, LGBTQQ activists, judges, lawyers, government and public administration officials, academics and students.

The Keynote Address

The Oireachtas begins 2015 with debates on the first ever legislation to officially recognise transgender persons in Ireland, the Gender Recognition Bill 2014. There is concern about some clauses of the proposed Bill, with transgender persons arguing that they are too restrictive and would exclude some people (see, here and here). A particularly contentious clause would require transgender persons who are already married or in a civil partnership to divorce as a pre-condition for recognition in their preferred gender.

What can we learn from the experience of other European countries like Germany, where the Constitutional Court struck down a similar ‘compulsory divorce’ provision and other provisions of the German Transsexual Law as being in breach of the German Constitution or Basic Law? Judge Schmidt-Räntsch will discuss the German experience of gender recognition legislation and fundamental rights.

Chair:

Ms Justice Catherine McGuinness, former Judge of the Irish Supreme Court.

Other Contributors:

Michael Farrell (FLAC)

Broden Giambrone (Transgender Equality Network Ireland) Continue reading “Seminar 5th Feb 2015 (Trans)Gender Recognition in Germany: The Role of the German Courts”

Seminar 5th Feb 2015 (Trans)Gender Recognition in Germany: The Role of the German Courts

Our Voices, Our Rights: Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Ireland

FLACHuman Rights in Ireland welcomes this guest post from Geraldine Murphy, Legal & Social Welfare Intern at the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC). The parallel report on Ireland’s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Our Voices, Our Rights is available to download here.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Ireland’s ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Under this covenant a UN committee sitting in Geneva examines each signatory country roughly every five years on the progression of their obligations under the covenant. Since its ratification in 1989, Ireland has been examined under the Covenant twice, in 1999 and in 2002. The next examination under the covenant will take place in June 2015.

The covenant covers rights including the right to work, fair wages, social security, the right to the highest standard of mental and physical health, the right to education and the right to take part in cultural life. As such it covers areas that span right across the lives of people in Ireland and the organisations in the NGO sector that support them.

In the examination process, each state must submit a report to the committee. Civil society organisations may then submit a “shadow” or “parallel” report which offers an independent view on how the state has or has not realised or progressed its obligations under the Covenant. Ireland submitted its most recent report in 2013, covering the period of 2002 to 2010. As Ireland is being examined by the committee in 2015, the government’s report will thus be five years out of date by the time it is examined – a significant length of time to be left unreported.

Further, State reports naturally tend to focus on positive progress and actions by Government. This is where a shadow report by civil society is vitally important to provide valuable independent information, not just to supplement the government’s report, but to highlight any inaccuracies and, in this case, to account for the glaring gap of five years in the State report, such that the committee can hold the Irish Government to account on the most relevant issues.

Parallel reporting – a tool for rights-based change

A civil society report generally aims to influence the List of Issues on which the committee will question the government party. This may prompt the Committee to request more information from the State in question, and ultimately the government will be publically questioned on the issues involved.

Civil society is growing its knowledge on how to use mechanisms such as ICESCR to promote basic rights. The public questioning of the government by a UN committee provides civil society with a platform to hold the government to account for its progress on protecting, promoting and fulfilling rights and to explain its actions in an international setting amongst peer nations.

Following this examination the Committee publishes a report (“concluding observations”) with recommendations for the government to act upon. This report provides civil society with a strong basis for which they can hold the government to account when campaigning in their particular area.

Our Voice, Our Rights: A parallel report

In early December 2014, the UN Committee on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights will decide the ‘List of Issues’ on which it will question the Irish Government on its performance under ICESCR. With this important event in mind FLAC coordinated a parallel report on how the Irish State is meeting its obligations under the Covenant, based on evidence from a wide variety of diverse organisations throughout Ireland which promote rights covered under ICESCR.

In compiling this report, FLAC consulted with more than 50 civil society organisations and individuals around Ireland. The report represents a range of issues which FLAC believes have not been adequately covered by the Irish State Report. It covers the period from 2002 to mid-September 2014 and examines issues arising under each of the different Covenant Articles where relevant.

“Our Voice, Our Rights” brings together organisations from across the spectrum of rights to voice their concerns and to illustrate how the decisions and action of the government with respect to economic social and cultural right are affecting people on the ground. This report exemplifies a combined action by independent organisations, with a common focus of human rights, to hold the government to account for its responsibilities and obligations under the Covenant.

The reporting process

A fundamental feature of the process involved in a collective report such as this is to ensure maximum consultation with organisations working on the ground in relation to Covenant issues. Consultations were held in Cork, Galway and Dublin in an effort to gather information from as many bodies countrywide as was practicable. While most issues in the report would hold for communities rural and urban all over the country, in some cases such as poor broadband connectivity, the effect of transport quality in rural communities and its impact on people’s right to enjoy cultural life there are region-specific highlights.

Why is this important?

A comprehensive report with clear recommendations for the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to consider when they compile their list of issues  means the Committee will have a more balanced view of what has been happening in Ireland since 2002. ‘Our Voices, Our Rights’ provides the committee with the opportunity to see the rights and issues in context. It also provides them with a clear view of the rights that have either not been progressed since the last review, or in the case of some rights, which have been regressed.

Our Voices, Our Rights: Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Ireland

Why Budget 2015 must be that last of its kind

FLACHuman Rights in Ireland welcomes this guest post from Yvonne O’Sullivan of the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC). Yvonne is Advocacy and Policy Officer in FLAC.

Speculation on budget measures had circulated in media outlets in the final days before Budget 2015. Reports before the budget abounded that the architect group, the Economic Management Council (of Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Minister for Finance and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform), had signed off on a suite of complimentary tax measures, benefiting lower to middle income earners as well as committing to investing in social housing stocks which were made real on budget day, Tuesday 14th October. Most people would agree that these are welcome measures, especially in the wake of serial austerity budgets, but how the Council reached such decisions deserves some attention.

As an example, let’s look at water charges. Huge public opposition to these new and significant charges, manifest in last Saturday’s mass demonstration, reportedly triggering the EMC to build into the budget a degree of financial support for those unable to pay for their water usage. Although these supports will aid some social welfare recipients and low income earners to pay for their water services, it is ultimately an extra cost which is not fully offset from the income gained in the reductions in USC and the income tax rates.

However, we have to ask why the government has only now taken on board the concerns of the public around affordability, when these water charges were announced last year in Budget 2014? Surely the time to assess the impact on the public would be from the time the government started planning to introduce the charge? Why would you wait until the Budget Day, after months of stress and worry for ordinary householders, inflamed by rumour on possible waivers and cost, and especially after the charges have already begun? Have these new charges made it impossible for people to live in dignity? Will water supply be adequate, affordable and accessible after charges are introduced? Has the state done an impact assessment on introducing these charges? Continue reading “Why Budget 2015 must be that last of its kind”

Why Budget 2015 must be that last of its kind

Socio-Economic Rights & Budget Analysis: Some Notes on Available Resources, ‘Progressivity’ and Non-Retrogression

FLACHuman Rights in Ireland welcomes this guest post from Dr John Reynolds. John is a lecturer in law in NUI Maynooth. These are John’s notes from the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) seminar Fairer Budget, Fairer Society: A human rights analysis of Budget 2015 from Irish civil society held today, 16 October 2014. 

We are all too aware of the immediate and cumulative impacts that relentless austerity budgets have had on people in Ireland over the last seven years, with the brunt of that austerity disproportionately meted out on working class communities, low-income families and those most in need of social protection. Structural adjustment during that time has been implemented in keeping with right-wing thinking, coming in the form of a 2:1 ratio of cuts in services to tax increases (themselves often regressive in nature). Levels of poverty and inequality have deepened. Socio-economic protections have been resolutely subordinated by the state’s loyalty to financial institutions and the imperatives of transnational capital. There has been no departure from the race to the bottom for foreign investment in which Ireland is engaged, with the diversion of resources to corporate tax reduction measures continuing in various guises.

In the face of such market hegemony, what can international human rights discourse offer when it comes to social justice advocacy and budget analysis?

The distribution of housing, healthcare, education and water is rooted in the underlying struggle for resources between sectors of society, over which ideological lines are drawn and public policy is formulated. Rights to housing, healthcare, education or water, therefore, cannot be limited to narrow formalistic conceptions of justiciable legal claims. Implementation of the state’s obligations under international human rights treaties pertains as much to the legislative and executive branches as it does to the judiciary. All the more so when it comes to the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights, where constitutional protection for the rights that Ireland has pledged to uphold remains distinctly lacking. Deploying the language of socio-economic rights in this sense is best understood as one tactic within a broader strategy of progressive or radical politics aimed at distributive justice.

In this context, the increased attention devoted to budget analysis and fiscal policy in recent times by human rights organisations, UN Special Rapporteurs and legal scholarship is an important step in opening up the political space to socio-economic rights discourse. This is set against the backdrop of an evolving conversation on the need for a radical transformation from mainstream economics to the assertion of control over the market for social benefit. It is important to be clear from the outset, however, that the field of human rights itself is coming from a low base in this regard. International human rights mechanisms and bodies have traditionally maintained an agnostic approach to the choice of economic model, and as such have been weak in confronting financialisation and the neoliberal economic order. In 1990, at a watershed moment for the global expansion of neoliberalism, the UN Committee on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights took the opportunity to clarify that ‘in terms of political and economic systems the Covenant is neutral and its principles cannot accurately be described as being predicated exclusively upon the need for, or the desirability of a socialist or a capitalist system, or a mixed, centrally planned, or laisser-faire economy, or upon any other particular approach.’ While some inroads have since been made by UN Special Rapporteurs at least acknowledging that the policies of the World Trade Organisation can have negative consequences on social rights, for instance, an overarching ‘trade-related, market-friendly paradigm of human rights’ has implied acquiescence to the prevailing economic orthodoxy and its steady erosion of labour rights standards and public services.

Those structural constraints notwithstanding, there are strands of international human rights law and discourse that can inform a more progressive approach to budgetary policy when it comes to the state’s obligation to devote the ‘maximum of its available resources’ towards the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights. The Committee has stated that ‘the “availability of resources”, although an important qualifier to the obligation to take steps, does not alter the immediacy of the obligation, nor can resource constraints alone justify inaction’, and that ‘even in times of severe resource constraints, States parties must protect the most disadvantaged and marginalized members or groups of society.’ These ‘minimum core’ obligations are supplemented by an ongoing commitment to progressively realising the full range of economic, social and cultural rights for all.

A principle of non-retrogression has been constructed accordingly, under which retrogressive measures imposed in a developed economy should be almost impossible to justify. Aoife Nolan has suggested, however, that the past failures of the Committee on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights in clearly marking out the parameters of retrogressive measures (as well in engaging with issues around privatisation) have limited the capacity of social justice campaigners to contest specific budgetary moves as violations of the Covenant. The Committee’s practice does finally appear to be moving on this more recently though, perhaps prompted by the work of several Special Rapporteurs with mandates over socio-economic rights who have gone furthest in developing the normative framework around tax, fiscal and budgetary policy as it relates to available resources and non-retrogression.

Among the more progressive authorities in this regard have been Magdalena Sepúlveda as Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty, and Olivier de Schutter in his capacity as Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Before finishing her mandate earlier this year, Sepúlveda built on her previous examination of fiscal contractions and cuts to social protection systems as deliberately retrogressive measures in an investigation that emphasised of the critical role of fiscal policy, and particularly taxation policy, in tackling inequality and vindicating socio-economic rights. She highlighted, among other things, the needs to: increase reliance on direct and personal taxes on income; move away from indirect and regressive taxes on consumption; design taxes so as to that reduce regressive impact and gender inequalities, including in relation to unpaid care work; ensure that public revenue raised from the financial sector is commensurate to the sector’s profitability and the risks it generates; implement a financial transaction tax; and ensure that affected communities and future generations are protected in the exploitation of natural resources, with extractive industries taxed sufficiently.

De Schutter made submissions to Sepúlveda as part of this process, in which he reinforced the importance of raising taxes as a means available to states to progressively improve access to socio-economic rights, and warned of the converse negative impacts in allowing tax avoidance and tax incentives to foreign investors. He pointed out that a ‘regressive system of taxation seriously limits the redistributive aspect of [social] programmes’, concluding that in such circumstances a state is inherently failing to deploy the maximum of its available resources to the realisation of socio-economic rights. Another notable submission to Sepúlveda from the Independent Expert on the Effects of Foreign Debt on Human Rights emphasised that:

policy-based loans and debt relief from the international financial institutions typically require the borrower countries to implement a range of economic and fiscal reforms including the introduction of a value-added taxes and other regressive taxes, as well as tax holidays for foreign corporations. Although the ostensible aim of these policies is to promote economic growth and restore the debt servicing capacity of borrower countries, research indicates that they, in fact, have a negative impact on the realization of human rights over the longer term and that they have contributed to increasing poverty and marginalization among the poor in debtor countries.

These findings of the UN special procedures have been supplemented by academic analysis which suggests that counter-cyclical tax policies (to manage the periodic structural crises which are endemic to capitalism) are necessary to uphold the principle of non-retrogression.

The lack of adherence to principles of non-retrogression and tax justice in successive austerity budgets in Ireland since 2008 has been well documented. The Centre for Economic and Social Rights, for instance, highlighted the explicit priority given (in the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014) to ‘drastic cuts in social expenditures over progressive tax reforms in a country ranking among the lowest in Europe in terms of overall tax levels.’ Budget 2015 appears to stem the tide in terms of those drastic cuts (although the estimates provided by the government suggest that ‘real’ public spending—factoring in inflation—will continue to decrease through to 2018), but remains problematic from a social justice perspective when it comes to tax policy. Finance Minister Michael Noonan made reference in his Budget 2015 speech to the ‘progressivity’ of the Irish tax regime. The Department of Finance has repeatedly emphasised, even in the context of previous austerity budgets, that it equates the existence of income tax ‘progressivity’ with a normative concept of ‘fairness’. This focuses on one component of the tax system only, and fails to account for the trend toward taxes and charges that are regressive in character; that is, indirect taxes such as water charges or VAT increases, which are not progressively scaled according to concepts of equality or ability to pay. From a socio-economic rights perspective, such a shift to indirect taxation may not be ‘fair’ (the continuation of general ‘progressivity’ in the income tax regime notwithstanding) and may be retrogressive in effect.

In the context of Budget 2015, the net impact of newly introduced regressive water charges and the way in which income tax reductions are scaled means that those at minimum-wage level will benefit least in real and relative terms. Many of those earning between €15,000 and €35,000 will be actually be left in a worse financial situation overall next year. Those earning €70,000, more than double the average wage and falling within in the top 10% of income distribution, will benefit most in relative terms from the budget. The choice to devote available resources to reducing the higher rate of income tax has left social justice campaigners understandably ‘outraged’, and dilutes the progressivity of the income tax system.

The tax credits and benefit allowances offered as sweeteners to reduce water charges slightly does not alter the fundamentally regressive nature of the water tax, and fails to answer broader questions about the government’s decision to turn water into a commodity. As experience elsewhere has shown, it can be a very quick and slippery slope from commodification to privatisation. This is all the more the case in an international trade and investment climate that seeks to create increased ‘market access’ to natural resources and public services, as exemplified in Europe’s case in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership currently being negotiated with the United States. In this regard, the likelihood of commodification and privatisation amounting to retrogressive steps in the state’s fulfilment of the right to water must be weighed. In resisting these steps, as Paul O’Connell explains, the Right2Water campaign’s use of the language of rights to assert that water is ‘a public good that should be funded through general taxation, available to all on the basis of need, and protected from the vicissitudes and inequities of the market’ is more than a mere appeal to a legal provision; it is ‘a rejection of the idea that there is no alternative to the commodification of essential services and resources.’

Questions around budget deficits, borrowing and debt have garnered increased attention of late from international human rights mechanisms. A substantial chunk of the Irish state’s resources continue to be directed to interest repayments on the national debt, which includes socialised commercial bank debt. The work done under the mandate of the Independent Expert on the Effects of Foreign Debt on Human Rights, in particular in relation to conceptions of illegitimate debt, provides interesting tools with which to analyse the allocation of available resources to accumulated debt in relation to socio-economic rights obligations. Against the sense of a prevailing ‘dictatorship of no alternatives’, we have seen that it is possible to imagine radical alternatives in this sphere. Argentina recently passed legislation to conduct a public audit of its national debt with a view to assessing whether it is composed of any illegitimate or odious debt. Countries such as Ecuador and Norway have cancelled debt previously on the back of similar investigations. And just last month, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the ‘establishment of a multilateral legal framework for sovereign debt restructuring processes’, aimed at preventing debt crises and financial speculation from undermining socio-economic rights in developing countries in particular. It was adopted by 124 votes in favour to 11 against. Despite our own harrowing debt crisis experience, Ireland voted in the minority with the global financial centres of Britain, US, Germany and Japan. This is telling of where the current government’s loyalties and solidarities lie, and of its attitude to financial creditors and socio-economic rights respectively.

A final point worth noting pertains to the norms of transparency and participation that international human rights standards require of a budgetary process. The Economic Management Council was created in the context of an ‘unprecedented national economic emergency’ that necessitated ‘strong, resolute leadership.’ This so-called “super-cabinet” structure was mandated to meet on a weekly basis to oversee key economic, budgetary and banking matters. Operating as ‘the equivalent of a war cabinet’, it is open to obvious critique as a further concentration of executive power, utterly lacking in democratic accountability and treading on precarious constitutional terrain. It was accepted by establishment commentators, however, as an exceptional, but temporary, necessity. In line with the tradition of the exception becoming the norm, the EMC was quickly championed by Dan O’Brien as ‘so good it should be made permanent.’ And despite the recent emergence of triumphalist narratives that the emergency has been overcome and the age of austerity is now behind us, there are no signs of the economic ‘war cabinet’ being dismantled. The other main site of decision-making power when it comes to the budget, the Department of Finance, formally accepts pre-budget submissions, but has shown little interest in meaningful external consultation. So while Irish civil society has developed a strong sense of engagement around budget policy, the impact of any alternative social vision presented remains marginal. This year, Social Justice Ireland presented analysis in its pre-budget submissions which examined six different options of income tax changes being contemplated by the government. The study concluded that ‘the most unfair option would be to decrease the 41% tax rate’. Yet this was the very course taken by the Minister for Finance, and one which he has defended as ‘very fair’

Socio-Economic Rights & Budget Analysis: Some Notes on Available Resources, ‘Progressivity’ and Non-Retrogression

2014 Thomas Addis Emmet Fellowship in International Public Interest Law

FLACThe Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC)  is now welcoming applications from law students, graduates, postgraduates and Law Society students for the 2014 Thomas Addis Emmet Fellowship.

The Fellowship is run in conjunction with the University of Washington in Seattle, US every summer. The successful applicant works for two months as an intern and gains first-hand experience of human rights and public interest legal cases.

To apply, please download and complete the application which is available here. Application forms should be accompanied with a comprehensive CV and returned no later than 14 February 2014, to FLAC Head Office, 13 Lower Dorset Steet, Dublin 1.

2014 Thomas Addis Emmet Fellowship in International Public Interest Law

The Rule of Law and Access to Justice in Ireland

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”

The Rule of Law and Access to Justice in Ireland

The Right to Social Security is worth Protecting

Human Rights in Ireland welcomes this guest post from Saoirse Brady, Policy and Advocacy Officer in Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC), as part of its contribution to Human Rights Week 2012.

Social welfare law reform has been a key priority for FLAC for many years. To mark human rights week, FLAC takes this opportunity to look at the importance of the right to social security particularly in light of the recent Seanad motion inspired by our research on the social welfare appeals system Not Fair Enough. The impact of yet another austerity budget remains to be seen but the chances are that it will take its toll on the appeals system.

On 7 November, Independent Senator Katherine Zappone and her colleagues laid a motion before the Seanad based on a number of the recommendations in FLAC’s report. The motion was reasonable in scope: it called for an audit of the Appeals Office to ensure compliance with human rights obligations as outlined in FLAC’s report which gave in-depth analysis of how domestic and international human rights law applies to the appeals system. The motion also suggested a number of very practical steps: furnishing appellants with a copy of their social welfare files; including an option to request an oral hearing on the appeals form and simplifying and making more accessible application forms. These sensible steps would not be expensive to implement, but crucially, would enhance the way in which the system operates and rebalance the scales for appellants who at the moment are often at an unfair disadvantage.

During the Seanad debate, Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD, welcomed FLAC’s report Continue reading “The Right to Social Security is worth Protecting”

The Right to Social Security is worth Protecting

Access to Justice in the Spotlight

Human Rights in Ireland welcomes this guest post from Andrew Guy,  a legal intern with the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) as part of its contribution to Human Rights Week 2012.

Last week the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) held a high level conference entitled ‘Justice in austerity – challenges and opportunities for access to justice’. The conference sent out a clear message that budget cuts in the wake of the current economic crisis should not affect a person’s legal entitlement and right to access justice. The EU FRA also took the opportunity to launch its new report on access to justice in cases of discrimination across the EU.

Like many other countries worldwide, Ireland is in recession and implementing strict austerity measures. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) believes, however, that this cannot be used as a reason to deny access to legal help for those who need it most. As a legal rights organisation, FLAC is working to realise equal access to justice for all. But what does this mean? Access to justice is a core fundamental right. It means that people have the opportunity to get a fair trial, to claim their rights and have them vindicated in a timely way, to challenge crimes or abuses, be able to get legal information, advice and representation when they need it and to be able to access the courts.

According to the FRA, access to justice is a right facing a number of challenges throughout the EU, especially in cases of discrimination. In its report, the FRA identified a number of areas where measures could bring about concrete improvements, including independence of equality bodies and other institutions in the judicial system. The report concluded that EU Member States need to make their justice systems easier to navigate, Continue reading “Access to Justice in the Spotlight”

Access to Justice in the Spotlight

Reception Conditions for Asylum Seekers in Ireland: The Need for a Legislative Basis

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.[1] 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”

Reception Conditions for Asylum Seekers in Ireland: The Need for a Legislative Basis

FLAC: Thomas Addis Emmet Fellowship in International Public Interest Law

The Free Legal Advice Centres have recently advertised the Thomas Addis Emmet Fellowship in International Public Interest Law.  The successful candidate will get the opportunity to work in a public interest law environment; gain hands on experience in the law; will have an opportunity to attend lectures and seminars in the University of Washington Law School, Seattle. The successful candidate will also have the opportunity to work with American law students working in public interest law. The fellowship provides, flights, accommodation, meals and an allowance. Interested students should see here for more details on how to apply and closing dates.

FLAC: Thomas Addis Emmet Fellowship in International Public Interest Law