The Law Society of Ireland has called for an end to the non-statutory system of direct provision, and has expressed concern about the lack of a legislative foundation for proposed reforms of the system.
In a statement issued ahead of UN World Refugee Day on 20 June, the Society said that the proposed new system "must be grounded in the principles of human rights, respect for diversity and respect for privacy and family life".
In a recent submission to the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, the Society made a number of recommendations to reform the direct provision system in Ireland:
- Ensure an end to direct provision, and the timely introduction of an alternative system for accommodating and supporting those seeking international protection in Ireland,
- The new system should be supported by legislation to ensure that it is appropriately rights-based and includes remedies where identified standards are not met,
- The State to have due regard to the fundamental Constitutional right of personal liberty and freedom and its international obligations in respect of the treatment of immigration detainees and international protection applicants.
The chairperson of the Law Society’s Human Rights and Equality Committee, Sinéad Lucey, said the reforms outlined in a recent Government White Paper were to be welcomed, but added that it was concerning that the proposed new system still lacked a legislative foundation.
“Reform has taken place on a policy level, but we must move away from the non-statutory structure of direct provision that has been in place since its inception,” she said.
“We need a system that cannot be changed on an ad hoc basis or without legislative oversight.”
Ms Lucey said that Ireland had made a commitment to meet the minimum standards outlined in the EU Directive on Reception Conditions, but the Society hoped that Ireland would go beyond the minimum.
She said that any system based on the principles of human rights must include certain legal guarantees on minimum standards, and must also provide legal remedies for any failure by the State to achieve those standards.
“National law and policy needs to be assessed against the requirements of the directive to ensure that it has been properly transposed into national law,” Ms Lucey said.
“It is presently questionable whether applicants are provided with an adequate standard of living, or whether the inability for some asylum seekers to secure a driving licence is acting as an indirect barrier to the labour market, contrary to the requirement of the directive,” she added.