Expulsion from Direct Provision: The right to housing & basic subsistence for asylum seekers

KOD LyonsHuman Rights in Ireland welcomes this guest post from Colin Lenihan. Colin is a trainee solicitor for KOD Lyons Solicitors a leading human rights & public interest law firm, who represent asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants. 

During Ireland’s last examination by the United Nations Committee Against Torture, in May 2011 the then Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Sean Aylward was questioned at length by committee members on issues around direct provision and Ireland’s international human rights obligations towards asylum seekers. In addressing this issue Mr Aylward stressed that the Irish State have consistently ensured the international human rights standards for all asylum seekers and he personally would lose sleep if he thought any asylum seeker fleeing persecution was denied shelter (see here and here).

While Mr Aylward may hold such high beliefs that the Irish State provides shelter for those seeking international protection in Ireland, many practitioners and advocates would be aware that in practical terms many asylum seekers in Ireland are forced into destitution following their expulsion from direct provision accommodation.

KOD Lyons recently represented a client who was expelled from direct provision. The client, who has a history of mental health and drug addiction problems, was expelled as a result of his behaviour in direct provision, which effectively rendered him homeless for a considerable period of time. As he is currently within the asylum process he was legislatively prohibited from seeking employment, accessing all forms of social welfare assistance or any homeless services. His extended period of homelessness exacerbated his ongoing mental health and addiction issues. KOD Lyons were successfully able to seek his re-admittance to a direct provision centre after arguing that the lack of access to any basic subsistence for asylum seekers would effectively constitute inhuman and degrading treatment contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Challenges have been brought before the courts in Ireland and the United Kingdom on the issue of expulsion from asylum accommodation centres and the right to a basic level of subsistence. In A.N. v Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (discussed here, pp. 22-23)A.N. was an asylum seeker who was expelled from a direct provision accommodation centre due to his behaviour. The applicant suffered from mental health issues and was forced to live on the streets without access to shelter or money. While this case ultimately settled before a full hearing, many of the same inhuman and degrading treatment concerns were raised.

The UK case of R v v Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex p. Adam, Limbuela and Others, the House of Lords found that the failure to provide “the most basic necessities of life” may in certain cases, breach Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights which forbids inhumane or degrading treatment, if it attains a “minimum standard of severity” as expressed by Lord Bingham.

While acknowledging that the RIA House Rules permit the expulsion of asylum seekers in certain circumstances, it is imperative that consideration be given to any underlying mental health or behavioural disorders prior to making any expulsion decisions. It is also imperative that if the State consciously expels any asylum seeker from direct provision accommodation, an alternative basic level of subsistence should be offered. Failure to provide such would lead to serious breaches of international human rights obligations.

 

The Ethics of Home: Direct Provision, Homelessness and Ireland’s Housing Policies’ seminar will take place in The Exhibition Area, Limerick City Hall on Tuesday 24th June 2014. Information on speakers and registration can be found here.

 

Expulsion from Direct Provision: The right to housing & basic subsistence for asylum seekers

Access to Adequate Medical Treatment for Vulnerable Asylum Seekers in Direct Provision

KOD LyonsHuman Rights in Ireland welcomes this guest post from Colin Lenihan. Colin is a trainee solicitor for KOD Lyons Solicitors a leading human rights & public interest law firm, who represent asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants. 

Earlier this week a client of KOD Lyons, who is awaiting an appeal to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, arrived in our office in a distressed state. He was informed by the Reception & Integration Agency (RIA) that he was to be transferred from his direct provision centre in Dublin city centre to a centre in Foynes, Co. Limerick, by the end of the week. He was naturally upset at the prospect of being dispersed to a remote centre in another part of the country, with only 3 days notice.

He is a recovering heroin addict who was receiving daily drug rehabilitation treatment in Dublin. This consisted of daily methadone treatment, weekly medical checkups and he was also seeking regular counselling for his ongoing mental health problems. His medical needs were so strict and continuous, we were immediately concerned at the prospect of him being uprooted and being dispersed to another centre where no such treatment programme was put in place.

KOD Lyons were informed by the HSE drug treatment services in Limerick, which our client was instructed by RIA to link in with, that no system had been put in place to deal with our client’s medical needs. KOD Lyons were informed that due to the short notice of the transfer, an adequate medical treatment programme to address our clients’ needs would not be in place for up to 7 days. We were immediately concerned that if our client were to be dispersed to the direct provision centre in Foynes, the withdrawal of his specific daily medical needs would result in serious risk to his health & safety  and the safety of other residents in the centre.

We sought clarification with RIA as to the procedure which would be in place once our client was dispersed to Foynes. KOD Lyons  specifically requested whether our client would have to travel to Limerick City each day, a 90 minute round trip, to receive his methadone treatment. We argued that such a journey would be unreasonable and detrimental to his health. We argued that while our client was in the direct provision system, the State owed a duty of care to him and that he was entitled to adequate and accessible medical treatment to meet his needs. We sought a stay to the proposed dispersal until such adequate procedures were in place. Continue reading “Access to Adequate Medical Treatment for Vulnerable Asylum Seekers in Direct Provision”

Access to Adequate Medical Treatment for Vulnerable Asylum Seekers in Direct Provision