Legal rights campaigners welcome compensation ruling for direct provision delays

Eilis Barry
Eilis Barry

Legal rights campaigners have welcomed a compensation award for a family residing in Direct Provision as an important vindication of their arguments that the system is failing people.

On Friday, the High Court awarded compensation to a woman who was refused child benefit and other social benefits to which she might have been entitled due to a delay in determining her application for subsidiary protection.

The woman and her husband applied for international protection in Ireland in 2006 because of the risk faced by them in their home country. Their first child was born in 2007 while they resided in Direct Provision. They first applied for child benefit in 2008, which was refused. It was not until May 2012 that a final decision was made on their protection application and they were granted child benefit.

The principal issue was whether the delay in deciding their application for subsidiary protection, which also resulted in lack of access to social benefits including child benefit, was so unreasonable that the rights of the mother were breached under EU law and the Constitution.

While the court did not find that the refusal to pay child benefit to families in direct provision was a breach of rights per se, it did find that the delay on the part of the State in finally making a decision on their application for international protection was culpable. Accordingly, the State is liable to pay appropriate compensation.

Eilis Barry, chief executive of FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres), said: “FLAC has long been critical of the direct provision system. This is not least because of the protracted period for which families and individuals remain in the system without access to basic rights and entitlements such as the ability to work, live independently and access basic State benefits, including Child Benefit.

“This case is important as it confirms that the delays in decision-making on international protection claims may ultimately lead to a breach of Constitutional and EU law rights that may be vindicated through the Courts.”

Sinéad Lucey, managing solicitor at FLAC, added: “We are delighted that the perseverance of the clients in this case, in pursuing their rights while in direct provision, has been vindicated.

“While it remains to be seen how the Court will determine the compensation to which the applicant is entitled, the principle established in this case is important for all those with no choice but to accept the direct provision system pending the determination of their international protection claims.

“While the law is changing in this area, this case gives a further impetus to ensure our administrative systems are sufficiently resourced to avoid the type of delay seen in this case.”

Share icon
Share this article: