Goverment considers ruling which found asylum system rules unlawful

Minister says new working group offers chance of creating a more humane system

 Minister of State  for Justice and Equality  Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: said the department was considering the ruling. In the meantime,  the “ball was back in the Government’s court” in terms of tackling deficiencies in the system.  Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister of State for Justice and Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: said the department was considering the ruling. In the meantime, the “ball was back in the Government’s court” in terms of tackling deficiencies in the system. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

A new working group which is reviewing the State’s handling of asylum seekers offers the possibility of creating a more humane system, Minister of State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has said. The Minister was commenting after a High Court ruling last week which found that “house rules” in the so-called direct provision system were unlawful.

These rules include the daily signing-in of residents, advance notice of absences and a ban on having guests. The lack of an independent complaints mechanism was also highlighted in the ruling.

Mr Ó Ríordáin said the Department of Justice was considering the ruling. In the meantime, however, he said the “ball was back in the Government’s court” in terms of tackling deficiencies in the system.

A new working group – chaired by Mr Justice Bryan MacMahon – is examining a number of options which could improve conditions for the 4,000 residents – including 1,300 children – in the direct provision system. Most have spent four years or more waiting for their status to be resolved.

The group is likely to issue an interim report early next year and a final report to Government by April. It held its first meeting in recent weeks and is due to meet again this week. The 11-member group includes representatives from a range of non-governmental organisations, along with a former asylum seeker, an academic and a Department of Justice official.

It is specifically tasked with examining actions that could be taken to improve existing arrangements in processing applications and enhancing the dignity of residents through enhanced supports and services.

Mr Ó Ríordáin said he was on the record as stating that the current system was inhumane and needs to be reformed. “I’m hopeful that at the end of the working group’s deliberations they will recommend a system which will work better, which is better for society, better for the asylum seeking population and which reflects better on us as a country,” he said.

Mr Ó Ríordáin is in favour of extending the right to work for asylum seekers after a certain period of time, along with an increase in welfare support and enhanced access to third-level education.

His colleague, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, on the other hand, is opposed to extending the right to work to asylum seekers. She has, however, expressed support for other measures to enhance the dignity of asylum seekers.