Human rights body seeks to join test actions on shelter for asylum seekers

Cases brought by two Afghan men are being fast-tracked and will be heard by High Court later this month

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) is seeking to be joined as a participant in two test cases brought by adult male asylum seekers who claim their rights were breached due to being left homeless upon arrival in this State.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan has fast-tracked the two test cases, brought by Afghan asylum seekers, for hearing later this month, directing a tight schedule for filing legal submissions.

The two male applicants, who both separately sought international protection on February 8th, alleged they were left homeless and given a €28 Dunnes Stores voucher upon arrival in the State. The court was told on March 3rd that they had received accommodation.

While the two men no longer require orders forcing the State to accommodate them, they are continuing to pursue court declarations that their rights were breached.


On Monday, the publicly-funded IHREC said it hoped to intervene in these cases as an “amicus curiae” (friend of the court).

The judge asked what the commission would say that would not already be raised by the applicants, who have instructed solicitors at the Irish Refugee Council Independent Law Centre. He said the human rights aspects of the case are fairly apparent.

Mr Justice Meenan said he has scheduled the hearing for two days and he does not want the addition of IHREC to increase the length of the hearing.

IHREC’s counsel said it wanted to be joined due to the significant human rights points raised in the actions. The commission feels it can add something to the cases and its participation would not cause it to overrun, counsel added.

Mr Justice Meenan said he will decide on Wednesday whether to add the commission to the case, which is against the Minister for Integration.

If the Minister does not object or respond by then, the judge will add the commission to the hearing, he said.

Mr Justice Meenan adjourned two other actions brought by Nigerian men who found themselves homeless upon arrival in the State. These should await the outcome of the test cases.

Previously, lawyers for the State told the court that all women, children and family applicants seeking international protection have been accommodated since the Citywest processing centre ceased taking new arrivals on January 19th.

Adult males are receiving accommodation in chronological order from the date of their arrival.

The court was told the Minister has “unambiguously” accepted his legal duty to provide reception accommodation to asylum seekers.

The State is dealing with a 600 per cent increase in international protection applications since the start of 2021, with the number of emergency reception centres increasing from 32 to 128 over that period, the court heard.

Other recent cases the IHREC appeared in include Patrick Quirke’s Supreme Court appeal against his murder conviction, for which judgment is outstanding.

The body also appeared in the unsuccessful Supreme Court appeals of Gerry Hutch and ex-Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall in their challenge to being tried at the Special Criminal Court.

It acted as an amicus curiae in a recent Supreme Court appeal concerning a Canadian woman’s visa extension refusal and in another examining the burden of proof on an accused person wishing to claim they were reasonably mistaken about the age of a person under 17 with whom they are accused of having sexual relations.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter