Supreme Court ruling puts asylum law back in Oireachtas spotlight

Wendy Lyon
Wendy Lyon

Irish legislators will be forced to revisit Ireland’s asylum laws less than two years after the International Protection Act was passed, following yesterday’s landmark Supreme Court ruling.

Now, human rights lawyers and organisations who were critical of the 2015 legislation hope the Oireachtas will be able to undo some of their mistakes.

Dublin solicitor Wendy Lyon, who specialises in immigration and refugee law, told Irish Legal News: “I certainly hope the Minister for Justice won’t respond with a minor change in the law which minimally complies with the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“We have the opportunity here to fundamentally overhaul our reception conditions for protection applicants, and to do away with Direct Provision once and for all - this is the outcome I’d like to see.”

Responding to Department of Justice comments, Ms Lyon added: “I find the suggestion that the Common Travel Area and Brexit negotiations might be affected rather bizarre, given that the UK itself already grants asylum seekers a right to work in certain circumstances.

“As for the repeated claim that the new asylum procedures will address the problem by reducing the amount of time that people spend in the system, there is no evidence of that yet and no practitioner I know expects to see it happen anytime soon.”

Emily Logan
Emily Logan

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) made submissions to the Supreme Court as an amicus curiae.

Chief Commissioner Emily Logan said: “I welcome the ruling and strongly recommend, as stated previously in our 2014 Policy Statement on Direct Provision, that strong consideration be given to allowing Direct Provision residents to work and that Direct Provision residents over the age of 18 receive education and training, in preparation for seeking employment once they leave the system.”

NGO Nasc has said it is “eager to see how the State will respond and what the final impact on the rights of asylum seekers will be”.

CEO Fiona Finn said: “Once again, it is down to the Courts to force the State to live up to its constitutional and human rights obligations.

“We hope the State will act quickly now in response to the judgment and take the necessary actions to remove the absolute ban on employment for asylum seekers and ensure the dignity and autonomy of people seeking asylum.”