Syrian refused bank account among cases fought by Irish rights group

IHREC report published as Covid-19 highlights ‘existing inequalities in our society’

During 2019 the Irish Human Rights and Equality commission had 2,165 public queries – a 27 per cent increase on 2018

During 2019 the Irish Human Rights and Equality commission had 2,165 public queries – a 27 per cent increase on 2018

 

A refugee who was refused a bank account because he was Syrian, and a woman who was denied dental treatment because she was HIV positive, are among the cases the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) dealt with last year.

Its annual report, published on Wednesday, details some of the 46 completed cases in which it provided legal advice or assistance to people or groups of people whose rights, under equality and human rights legislation, had been violated.

During 2019 the commission had 2,165 public queries – a 27 per cent increase on 2018.

Acting chief commissioner Dr Frank Conaty said the ongoing Covid-19 crisis had highlighted “in the starkest terms, existing inequalities in our society”.

Those who had been hit the hardest were those most likely to seek the commission’s help in addressing discrimination and disadvantage, he said.

“These include older people, women and children, members of the Traveller and Roma communities, homeless people, vulnerable migrants – including those living in direct provision centres – and people with disabilities,” he said.

Moving from the emergency phase of the national response to the longer term, it was “more important than ever that human rights and equality principles are built into the recovery,” he added.

Employment

The commission provided legal advice in 25 cases, covering employment, access to services and human rights issues last year.

It legally represented 41 people, in 21 cases, including five under the Employment Equality Acts. All five of these were on the grounds of the person’s disability and included a man who was dismissed from his job as an aircraft service agent because he had dyspraxia, and another where a man had an offer of employment withdrawn after he disclosed he had a HIV diagnosis.

In the former the man was found to have been discriminated against when dismissed by Sky Handling Partner Ltd, at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and the company was ordered to pay him €15,000. The second case was resolved through mediation.

A total of 12 people were legally represented by the commission in cases under the Equal Status Act, relating to the access of services, last year. Among these was the case of a bank refusing to open an account for a Syrian refugee because of his nationality.

The WRC ordered the bank to pay the man €4,000 in compensation and to engage directly with the commission to ensure something similar never happened again.

In another case a bank refused to allow a refugee, who was already a customer, apply for a credit card due to his nationality. The case was resolved through mediation.

Landlords

Six cases involved tenants and, variously, landlords, a local authority, an accommodation provider and a letting agent.

Three of these were due to the landlord or letting agent refusing to accept the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). The WRC ruled against this discrimination in each of these cases that came before it.

A woman who was refused dental treatment, after she had informed the dental clinic in advance of her HIV status, received €10,000 compensation after mediation.

The clinic apologised, made the payment and provided equality, diversity and HIV training to its employees.

Two cases were taken under the Intoxicating Liquor Act where people were refused service in pubs.

In another case, a Roma family with five children brought judicial review proceedings against Dublin City Council as they had been removed from the housing list. The council said they were not entitled to housing supports as they “did not have right of residence”. However, they did as they were EU nationals.

“The case was settled and DCC reinstated the complainants onto the social housing list, backdated to the date of their original application and with homeless priority,” according to the report.