Ireland in breach of EU Charter of Fundamental Rights over asylum accommodation failures
Ireland has been found to be in breach of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union for the first time in a case concerning State failures to provide accommodation to asylum seekers.
The High Court ruled on Friday that the State’s failure to provide accommodation, food and basic hygiene facilities to a 17-year-old who had newly arrived from Afghanistan was unlawful and breached his right to dignity under the Charter.
When the applicant sought international protection in Ireland, he was told that there was no accommodation available, and was instead provided with a €25 voucher for Dunnes. This left him homeless on the streets for three weeks.
The challenge, in which the applicant was represented by the Irish Refugee Council’s independent law centre, was heard as a “lead case” with a number of similar applications brought forward by other asylum seekers who have not been offered accommodation.
According to the Irish Refugee Council, there are over 900 asylum seekers who have not been offered accommodation since 24 January 2023, of whom 531 remain homeless.
Ireland committed to providing international protection applicants with “material reception conditions” by opting into the relevant EU legislation in 2018. The Reception Conditions Directive ensures that, wherever they apply for international protection in Europe, an adequate standard of living will be provided.
In finding a breach of the Reception Conditions Regulations, Mr Justice Meenan said directing asylum seekers to “private charities to receive supports which the minister is obliged to give cannot be seen as anything other than completely unacceptable” and “does not come remotely close to what is required by law”.
He added: “Even though the minister is making efforts to secure accommodation this does not absolve him of his obligations under the Regulations.”
Katie Mannion, managing solicitor at the Irish Refugee Council’s independent law centre, said: “We welcome the very strong judgment of the High Court, which has declared that the appalling treatment of our client is unlawful, and a breach of their dignity under Article 1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
“We believe that this is the first time that a declaration has issued that Ireland has violated the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
“We remain extremely concerned for the health and safety of the men who have been experiencing street homelessness for as long as eight weeks before accommodation is provided. These High Court declarations must lead to immediate action on the State’s part to provide food and shelter to those who have sought protection in Ireland.”
Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, added: “The Irish Refugee Council welcomes the judgement by Mr Justice Meenan and urges all of government to immediately put in place measures to accommodate more than 500 international protection applicants who are currently experiencing street homelessness.
“We have been contacted by at least 290 people who are homeless, may are experiencing health problems, some have been assaulted and robbed and are living in fear on the streets. These are people who have sought sanctuary in Ireland, but have not received any of the protections which Ireland has committed to provide to them.
“It is clear from the decisions of the European Court of Justice on the Reception Conditions Directive that, even if accommodation facilities are overloaded, alternative steps should be taken by the minister which may include giving ‘financial allowances’ or referring persons, such as the applicant, to ‘bodies within the general public assistance system’.
“It is high time for other government departments, in particular the Department of Housing, to support the Department of Children and people who are homeless.”