State undertakes to house destitute asylum seeker


THE STATE has told the High Court it will provide interim accommodation from today for a mentally ill refugee from Afghanistan who is destitute, homeless and has been sleeping in a factory in Dublin for the past two months.

The accommodation will be provided pending the outcome of the man's legal challenge, to be heard next week.

Counsel for the State said the man must undertake not to repeat behaviour which led to his being barred from "direct provision" hostel accommodation as that behaviour would not be condoned.

According to the Irish Refugee Council, asylum seekers are generally not allowed to receive mainstream social welfare and are housed via the direct provision system, which provides them with accommodation, board, some essentials and a weekly living allowance of €19.10 for adults and €9.60 for children. They are prohibited from working.

Mel Christle SC, for the Afghani man, said his client was barred from hostel accommodation without being given any opportunity to participate in any inquiry into allegations. The man denied claims of threatening behaviour and was barred in circumstances where no other accommodation option was made available.

Earlier, Mr Justice John Hedigan said the situation was "not acceptable" and asked: "Can something be done for this man?"

The judge stressed the man must undertake to behave himself but added he understood the man had mental health problems. "He is the author of his own misfortune but that may be due to his mental health difficulties."

The judge also said he understood the difficulties for hostel staff trying to deal with refugees from widely different backgrounds who had left traumatic situations in their home countries.

He said the State "has duties" but can "only do so much in situations where it is met with difficulties". The State should try to have the man seen by appropriate medical personnel within the coming days, the judge added.

The judge fixed next Thursday for the hearing of the man's application to require the State to provide him with basic subsistence pending the outcome of his application for asylum. His action is supported by the Irish Refugee Council, which claims the State has effectively closed off all means to avoid homelessness for certain asylum seekers in breach of human rights laws.

The man came here in 2005 and was in hostel accommodation until July 31st last when he was barred arising from claims of violent behaviour by him. He has claimed he was attacked by other hostel residents and also denied behaving in a threatening manner towards staff.

Since then, he has been homeless without any subsistence allowance from any State body. He has received some assistance from the IRC and other bodies.

In an affidavit, the chief executive of the refugee council, Robin Hannan, said the council and a range of other NGOs were increasingly concerned about the growing number of homeless asylum seekers here.

Mr Hannan said the IRC believes 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.

In his action, the man claims there is effectively no appeal from decisions by the Reception Integration Agency of the Department of Justice refusing accommodation.