Refugee who sleeps in factory seeks subsistence aid

 

THE HIGH Court yesterday heard the case of a refugee from Afghanistan who is destitute and has been sleeping in a factory building and is refused permission to work.

The Irish Refugee Council said the plight of the man, who is mentally ill, highlighted that this State had “effectively closed off all means to avoid homelessness for certain asylum seekers”, in breach of human rights laws.

The refugee council and a range of other non-governmental organisations are becoming increasingly concerned about the growing number of homeless asylum seekers here, Robin Hannan, chief executive officer of the refugee council, said in an affidavit supporting the man’s case.

Many asylum seekers expelled from “direct provision” accommodation have mental health-related problems and could become a danger to themselves and others if rendered homeless and destitute, Mr Hannan said.

The council believed the “direct provision” system, with its low subsistence allowance, ban on employment and “enforced isolation, inactivity and poverty”, caused and exacerbated mental distress and instability.

Lawyers for the 35-year-old man, who came here in 2005, will apply to the court today for an injunction requiring the State to provide basic subsistence provision for him pending the outcome of his judicial review challenge, in which it is claimed the State’s treatment of him amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The man this week secured leave from Mr Justice Michael Peart to bring his case, which has implications for other asylum seekers in a similar position.

The man claims there is effectively no appeal from decisions by the Reception Integration Agency of the Department of Justice refusing accommodation and no alternative options for persons refused. He claims the problem has worsened because Ireland has refused to incorporate the 2003 EU Reception Directive that ensures the right to “a dignified standard of living for asylum seekers”.

In his affidavit, Mr Hannan said the State was obliged to protect and provide for people who have claimed asylum and other forms of protection here until their case is fully determined, which could take up to seven years.

This was particularly important as the State prevented asylum seekers from seeking employment, he added.

Since the scheme that allowed some asylum seekers work lapsed in 2000, asylum seekers had generally not been allowed to receive mainstream social welfare, he said. They were housed via the “direct provision” system which provided accommodation, board, some essentials, a weekly living allowance of €19.10 for adults and €9.60 for children. They were prohibited from working and in most cases from cooking.

In his action, the man says he fled Afghanistan in 2004 after being detained for anti-government political activities. He came here in 2005 and claimed asylum but his application has yet to be determined. He was placed in direct provision accommodation in a Cork hostel and spent most of the past three years there.

In 2006, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and attempted suicide.