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Tuesday 16 September 2014

Legal case to expose the 'degrading' treatment of asylum seekers

Published 01/06/2014 | 02:30

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The Dail has seen many protests about Ireland's asylum policy
The Dail has seen many protests about Ireland's asylum policy

Ireland's "inhumane" treatment of asylum seekers is under scrutiny in the biggest legal challenge to the State's immigration policies.

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The judicial review is being taken on behalf of a single mother of Ugandan origin and her three-year-old child, who have no status and could face deportation despite the fact the child was born here in January 2011.

The case against the State is that the treatment of asylum seekers here amounts to "inhuman and degrading treatment" under both the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, and all other international human rights conventions that Ireland has subscribed to.

Since the child was born, the pair have been living in asylum hostels with no entitlement to benefits and a weekly "provision" of just €19.10 for the mother and €9.60 for the child.

The woman applied to be allowed to take up employment, but this was turned down last year by then Justice Minister Alan Shatter. The case now being taken on is against the current Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton and the Attorney General Maire Whelan.

The case against the State is that the conditions under which the pair are being held "are inhumane, demoralising and degrading and fail to respect their basic dignity as human beings, especially having regard to the prolonged and protracted period of time in which they have been confined to such conditions".

The case is being argued by three human rights barristers, Saul Woolfson, Aoife Gillespie and Eve Bourached, accusing the State of denying a raft of human and constitutional rights to the mother and child, referred to as 'C. A. and T. Y'.

Judge Colm Mac Eochaidh has been hearing argument for the past four weeks. The case was adjourned on Friday, and is due to resume in July.

There are currently 5,000 people in the Republic's "Direct Provision" system for asylum seekers, all living in hostels where they are provided with food and accommodation by private agencies paid by the State. The system has been repeatedly condemned by human rights groups as being contrary to international human rights conventions.

The Republic has the lowest level of asylum acceptance in Western Europe with fewer than 1,000 a year now applying for asylum. More than 90 per cent of asylum applicants are turned down.

Sunday Independent

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