‘Serious human rights difficulties’ identified with hotel quarantine system by ICCL

Irish Council for Civil Liberties calls for regime to be suspended if issues not addressed

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) said it has identified “serious human rights difficulties” with the current mandatory hotel quarantine system and has called for the regime to be suspended if the issues “cannot be addressed”.

The ICCL has carried out an analysis of the main human rights issues raised by the system and points out that the Constitution requires the State employ detention as “a very last resort”.

“It is not clear that Government has fully exhausted all other options of disease control before reaching for quarantine, including supervised home quarantine and testing systems,” the ICCL said.

In relation to the hotel quarantine system, the organisation has flagged difficulties with the “lack of clear and consistent criteria and decisions on designated states” subject to mandatory hotel quarantine, as well as with inadequate provision for consideration of individual circumstances and hardship cases, the insufficient appeals process and the lengthy stay required in quarantine.

The ICCL also said it is “alarmed” at reports of poor conditions in the quarantine centres.

‘Fundamental requirement’

In a briefing note prepared by the ICCL, the organisation said it is a “fundamental requirement” of Irish law that detention must never be arbitrary. It said the manner in which states have been designated as requiring mandatory hotel quarantine raises concerns as to arbitrariness and lack of clarity.

“The Minister for Health has on numerous occasions been advised by the expert advisory group on travel to place certain countries into the ‘designated states’ category and has failed to do so without any clear reason as to why,” it said.

"The arbitrary nature of designation can best be demonstrated by the placing of Israel onto the list of designated states on April 5th. At that time, Israel's 14-day [Covid-19] incidence rate per 100,000 [of population] was 58. The equivalent incidence rate in Ireland on the same date was 157.1 per 100,000.

"Moreover, countries such as France and the US were recommended by the expert advisory group to be categorised as designated states at the end of March and again at the beginning of April. They were not categorised as designated states until April 15th."

Bodily integrity

The ICCL added that in any system of detention the State has obligations to respect bodily integrity of detained persons, to ensure that no detained person is subjected to inhumane or degrading treatment and to ensure that the conditions of detention are compatible with the right to respect for private and family life.

It said that in the short period of operation of the Irish mandatory hotel quarantine system, concerns have been raised in relation to the suitability of rooms provided for families and children, access to appropriate and acceptable food, access to fresh water on request, and access to exercise and fresh air.

It has called for a “robust system” of independent inspection and complaints mechanisms to ensure “adequate standards of care” are maintained in mandatory hotel quarantine at all times.

Liam Herrick, executive director of the ICCL, said: "The Irish Constitution and numerous international treaties contain a number of safeguards against arbitrary detention, including requirements of necessity and proportionality, and the requirement for a robust appeal process.

“Unfortunately, the reports on hotel quarantine so far shows that these standards are not being met.”