Closing Our Eyes: Irish Society and Direct Provision

Direct Provision IrelandDirect provision is front page news in Ireland today. Carl O’Brien has a number of pieces (here, here, here and here) in today’s Irish Times on inspection reports that have found that asylum seekers live in dismal conditions in direct provision centres. This of course will be of no surprise to the Department of Justice (and Equality……) or the current Minister for Justice, Mr Alan Shatter TD. In fact, it is of no surprise to the political system as a whole, given the extensive reports from non-governmental organisations and the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children. Institutions of the state know and have known for quite a bit of time about significant systemic problems with the system of direct provision. Nothing is being done about this.

What many in human rights organisations suspect (or are afraid to admit openly) is that Irish society knows full well about the system of direct provision, the vast majority of the population could not care less. In fact, the vast majority may even want a harsher system (at least if thejournal.ie commentators had their way). Politicians in the Dáil have said to me, over the years, that their work on direct provision is costing them support. Not just a few votes here and there, but very noticeable support.  Nevertheless, some TDs ( from the government parties and opposition parties) continue to highlight the major problems with the system of direct provision. In the Seanad, Senator Jillian van Turnhout raises the issue of direct provision continuously.

Concerns raised about direct provision since 2001 have included:  the lack of any legal basis for the system of direct provision, the reports of poor food quality,  infestations, cramped living conditions, individuals institutionalised in direct provision for several years. It might be helpful to put in place a timeline, so we can see just how much the legal and political systems and Irish society as a whole know of these problems with direct provision. Depressingly, as before, Irish society ignores, punishes and demonizes ‘problematic’ populations. So as to prevent societal amnesia being claimed, this timeline provides a resource to show what Irish society has known since the introduction of direct provision.

 

Direct Provision: A Select Timeline

1996 Asylum seekers legislatively prohibited from working throughout the duration of their asylum claim, on pain of criminal conviction. No penalties are imposed on employers.  Continue reading “Closing Our Eyes: Irish Society and Direct Provision”

Closing Our Eyes: Irish Society and Direct Provision

Social Welfare Law and Asylum Seekers in Ireland: An Anatomy of Exclusion

End Direct provisionAs noted in July 2013 on this blog, there is currently a challenge to the direct provision system before the Irish courts. The applicants and the State were before Mr Justice Colm MacEochaidh yesterday, September 17 2013 (see report from the Irish Times here and the report of Christine Bohan from The Journal here). The case will be back before Mr Justice MacEochaidh in late October 2013, when it will (hopefully) proceed to a speedy hearing by December.   The outcome of the case may have a profound impact on the much criticised direct provision system (see here, here, here and here). Given the recent and significant criticisms of the system of direct provision by the Northern Ireland High Court, there is a necessity on the Government to fundamentally re-calibrate how Ireland deals with asylum seekers: both in terms of determining whether an individual is entitled to refugee status, subsidiary protection and/or leave to remain AND how our social security system deals with those awaiting a final determination of their protection claim in Ireland.

As regards the system of direct provision and Irish social welfare law, I have argued on several occasions (see here, here, here, here and here) that there is no legal basis for the direct provision system and the Departments of Justice and Social Protection are acting outside their powers.

In recent days, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the  International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect’s European conference in Dublin stated in his speech:

Neglect is now the most common type of abuse of children.

Picture a child going to school in the rain without a winter coat;
In damp, dirty clothes having not had a breakfast.

Going home with no guarantee of dinner to a cold house not a home.
For that child ‘loving care’ is a luxury. They just want care, basic care. But for many, it doesn’t happen.

Despite these sentiments of An Taoiseach, children (and adults) in direct provision suffer state inflicted neglect and debasement through direct provision. This is justified on the grounds that they are ‘foreign’, they are not citizens,  they are undeserving of our support, conditions in their home countries would be worse.  The State seems destined to repeat history as regards turning a blind eye and providing significant resources to ensure the long term institutionalisation of those seeking protection in this state.

The current case before the High Court further argues that the direct provision system is unconstitutional and/or contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. In a recent article published in the Journal of Social Security Law, prior to the commencement of this current court action, I set down precisely how the system of direct provision came into being in Ireland.  A pre-peer reviewed version of this article is available here. Relying extensively on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the article presents a worrying picture of how legal rights can be set at naught through administrative actions. With knowledge of the dubious legal basis for direct provision since 2007, government departments have repeatedly ignored the lack of a legal basis for direct provision. The abstract for this article is as follows: Continue reading “Social Welfare Law and Asylum Seekers in Ireland: An Anatomy of Exclusion”

Social Welfare Law and Asylum Seekers in Ireland: An Anatomy of Exclusion

UN Special Rapporteur on Corrib Gas Protests

We are delighted to welcome this cross-post by Dr Shane Darcy from the Business and Human Rights in Ireland Blog.  The Business and Human Rights in Ireland Blog is dedicated to tracking and analysing developments relating to business and human rights in Ireland. It aims to address legal and policy issues, as well as highlighting human rights concerns raised by the activities of Irish companies or multinational corporations based in Ireland. The blog is run by Dr Shane Darcy who is a lecturer at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders has raised concerns regarding the treatment of those opposing the onshore gas pipeline being built by Shell and Statoil in Erris, Co. Mayo. Margaret Sekaggya outlines her views in a report submitted this week to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Special Rapporteur finds that there is credible evidence which indicates:

the existence of a pattern of intimidation, harassment, surveillance and criminalization of those peacefully opposing the Corrib Gas project.

The policing of protests seems to have been disproportionate in some instances, she reports, while “there have also been serious concerns about the lawfulness of certain actions by the private security firm employed by Shell”.

The Corrib Gas dispute has Continue reading “UN Special Rapporteur on Corrib Gas Protests”

UN Special Rapporteur on Corrib Gas Protests

Circumcision and Multicultural Negotiations.

In an op-ed in the ‘Rite and Reason’ section of last week’s Irish Times, Dr. Kenneth Houston lauded a regional German court for ‘standing up unambiguously against’ male circumcision on behalf of ‘secular liberal values and ideas of religious freedom’. The Cologne case is in danger of becoming another data point in the ‘law vs culture’ debates. The truth of the judgment is rather less dramatic, and the legal compromise with religious tradition rather more careful and difficult than such bombast allows.

Continue reading “Circumcision and Multicultural Negotiations.”

Circumcision and Multicultural Negotiations.

Conference on Disability & Genetic Discrimination

This Saturday 19 November the Centre for Disability Law & Policy will co-host a one-day conference with the Burton Blatt Institute entitled “Genetic Discrimination: Transatlantic Perspectives on the Case for a European Level Legal Response”.  It will take place  in Aras Moyola (Ground Floor), North Campus, National University of Ireland Galway commencing at 9am.  The leading experts in the field will speak at the conference.  See the detailed conference programme here and an Irish Times piece here.  This one day international conference is the first of its kind in Europe and will be significant in sparking a debate in Europe about future law and policy in this area.  It is planned to publish the proceedings from the conference. The purpose of this conference is to examine the case for a European level legal and policy response to protect the privacy of genetic information and to prevent genetic discrimination, particularly in the employment and insurance contexts.  The science of genetic testing and related technology is in the process of advancing. Among other things, genetic testing technology may well offer the prospect of being able to detect the onset of future disabilities. The technology is becoming more prevalent and is being used increasingly in both the employment context and the insurance context.  The conference is aimed at legal practitioners and medical practitioners, academics and researchers, NGOs and those involved in disability issues, bioethics and practice. It is also aimed at those interested in medical testing generally as well as genetic testing specifically. There will be Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points available to those who are eligible and a Certificate of Attendance will be provided after the Conference.  For further information please contact Ms. Aisling de Paor at: aisling.depaor@nuigalway.ie or telephone +353 91 494017.

Conference on Disability & Genetic Discrimination

Today in Irish History: The Easter Rising.

She strutted in larkish delight, calling to others less splendid, “How do yez like me now?” [1]

Today is the 95th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, and of the publication of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, chiefly (for good or ill) remembered as a declaration of resolve to ‘cherish all the children of the nation equally’. In the past year, as Irish public figures have tried to describe the economic and political predicament in which we find ourselves, Easter 1916 has been invoked again and again in support of many and varied claims – about the precarious state of our sovereignty, and about how it might be regained or asserted. For now, below, without further comment, a  highlights reel of 1916 references from the past 6 months:

Continue reading “Today in Irish History: The Easter Rising.”

Today in Irish History: The Easter Rising.

NUI Galway Lifecourse Institute to Hold Political Debate on Policies on Older Persons, Children & Families & Persons with Disabilities

An event called Future Policies: Older People, Children & Families & Persons with Disabilities, A Lifecourse Institute Election Event will take place Thursday 17th February at 8 pm in the main lecture theatre Aras Moyola, North Campus. There is no fee for this event, however, you will need to  register online in order to secure your attendance.  See here.  The Lifecourse Institute (LCI) at NUI Galway have invited the election candidates from the main political parties to set out their future policy plans for older people, children and families, and persons with disabilities.  Each of these policy areas is central to the work of the LCI.  Representing the political parties are Fidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael); Derek Nolan (Labour); Niall O’Brochlain (Green); Trevor O’Clochartaigh (Sinn Féin); and Eamon O’Cuiv (Fianna Fáil).  Lorna Siggins, Western Correspondent at the Irish Times Newspaper will chair the proceedings. Donncha O’Connell, of the School of Law at NUI Galway, will act as Rapporteur.  Each of the representatives will have the opportunity to outline their party position, followed by a question and answer session with representatives from a range of community groups and members of the public.  Professor Pat Dolan, Academic Director of the Lifecourse Institute, said “the event will provide an opportunity Continue reading “NUI Galway Lifecourse Institute to Hold Political Debate on Policies on Older Persons, Children & Families & Persons with Disabilities”

NUI Galway Lifecourse Institute to Hold Political Debate on Policies on Older Persons, Children & Families & Persons with Disabilities

The Law and Elder Abuse in Ireland

John Trimble was sentenced to 15 years in prison yesterday at Tullamore Circuit Court for falsely imprisoning his elderly parents at specified dates last year.  See the Irish Times coverage of the case here.  The trial judge stated that in his “40 years prosecuting, defending and judging cases of every sort I thought I had seen it all – well I haven’t”.  John Trimble pleaded guilty to the charges of false imprisonment, endangerment and assault.  The abuse as reported constituted both physical and psychological in nature.  The perpetrator forced his parents to take cold showers and drip dry.  They were denied food, clothing and medical attention over a period of months.  His mother was forced to carry out housework while naked and his father was forced to discontinue treatment for prostate cancer.  The abuse was discovered when the perpetrator refused HSE nurses access to his parents in July of last year.  The Gardaí were subsequently called and the victims were found naked on their beds, malnourished and spent 9 days in hospital recuperating.  In the victim impact statement read by another son the couple informed the court that the abuse had rendered them financially dependant on welfare and charity.  The victims also reported how they felt “isolated” in their community as a result of the abuse and Continue reading “The Law and Elder Abuse in Ireland”

The Law and Elder Abuse in Ireland