Discrimination in renting most common rights issue raised
Human rights commission got 368 queries last year under Employment Equality Acts
Since January of last year the Equal Status Act 2016 has prohibited discrimination against anyone seeking rented accommodation while in receipt of rent supplement or other welfare payments
Discrimination in the rental accommodation market was the issue most commonly raised with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission last year, according to its annual report.
The commission, established in 2014 to promote human rights in the State, dealt with 1,780 contacts from members of the public on issues in areas such as race, employment and gender.
Of particular concern was discrimination relating to people on social welfare attempting to find somewhere to live, which was the focus of the majority of contacts to the commission last year.
Since January of last year the Equal Status Act 2016 has prohibited discrimination against anyone seeking rented accommodation while in receipt of rent supplement or other welfare payments.
The commission has powers, in certain cases, to offer legal assistance to members of the public, and in one instance it encountered a refugee family from the Middle East who were forced to flee their home in Ireland after being subjected to racial harassment and violence.
The family, which included three children aged between nine and 16, was refused access to the housing list in another local authority area on the grounds they had no links to the area. They were forced to sleep in their car and the children were unable to attend school. Following legal intervention, they were eventually accepted onto the housing list and subsequently got accommodation.
The commission received 368 queries under the Employment Equality Acts with disability being the main ground of concern, followed by family status and race. There were a further 210 queries regarding human rights issues.
“The figures published in today’s annual report show that people are coming forward and contacting us to seek information, and to challenge discrimination whether they encounter it in the workplace or in their day-to-day lives,” said chief commissioner Emily Logan.
Another areas of activity for the commission is the direct provision system for asylum seekers. It has highlighted the issue at UN level, and called on the Irish State to introduce a time limit of between six and nine months, after which an asylum applicant may leave the direct provision system and live independently.
The report states that while Ireland enjoys a “laudable” reputation on human rights enforcement on a global stage, it is important to match this at home “demonstrating that we are a country that chooses respect for human rights and equality of treatment over hate and intolerance”.
It adds: “Ireland’s deployment of the Naval Service to the Mediterranean has been hugely significant in saving thousands of lives. We should now match our international response with national action, focusing in particular on the risk to child refugees and the strengthening of family reunification policies.”