A woman who claims her privacy rights as a prior victim of human trafficking, slavery, sexual abuse and exploitation have been breached as a result of spending years in the direct provision system has initiated a High Court challenge to the system.
The woman claims the conditions under which she and her Irish born child have lived in direct provision for more than five years give rise to “distress, anguish, denial of human dignity and significant anxiety”.
In their proceedings, the woman and her child, along with a separate case by another woman and her two children, want leave to challenge the State’s “manifest and ongoing” failure to establish an independent Refugee Advisory Board.
In both cases, the applicants also contend their rights to privacy under the Irish Constitution have been breached by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) rules governing residency in direct provision, a system set up in 2000 as a temporary measure to house asylum seekers.
Mr Justice Colm MacEochaidh, who in a previous case declared aspects of the RIA rules were unlawful, has “parked” the part of the case relating to privacy pending the adoption of revised house rules for direct provision residents.
The issue of revised rules is being “actively” dealt with by the Working Group on Direct Provision set up by the Minister for Justice and the adoption of revised rules is anticipated “in very short order”, said Nuala Butler SC, for the Minister and State parties.
The revision of the rules was initiated after the judge declared last year, in the case of CA and TA, that aspects of the RIA rules, including rules permitting unannounced inspections of residents’ rooms, amounted to unlawful breach of the right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In his judgment on CA and TA, the judge found insufficient evidence had been called to support the applicants other claims their rights under the Constitution and ECHR had been violated due to the duration and conditions of their stay in direct provision.
When dealing with directions for the hearing of the two new separate applications for leave for judicial review, the judge refused an application by Saul Woolfson, for the applicants, for a “telescoped” hearing of both cases.
The judge directed there should instead be a hearing, in the case of the woman who claims she is a victim of trafficking, to decide whether leave should be granted on the specific issue of the failure to establish a Refugee Advisory Board.
Ms Butler said she would be opposing leave being granted on that point.
In the claims concerning the board, the applicants allege that, under Section 7 of the 1996 Refugee Act, the Oireachtas clearly envisaged a permanent and independent staturoy, advisory, monitoring, reporting and review body - a Refugee Advisory Board - woud be set up.
It was envisaged such a body would play a key role in relation to operation of the Refugee Act, in assisting the Minister in developing policies and practices in the refugee and asylum areas and in addressing issues such as the treatment of refugee applicants by public and private bodies, it is claimed.
In their proceedings, the applicants also claim that provisions of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act preventing access to social welfare payments for residents of direct provision are invalid.
The second of the two cases involves a woman who has been living for several years with her husband and their two children, both of whom were born here, in a direct provision centre.
As she is still awaiting a decision on her application for refugee status, the woman said she is unable to work, access social welfare benefits or take up education and training and finds the “anbormal” living environment and overall experience “demoralising and dehumanising”.