The High Court has ruled that the failure of the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to provide applicants for international protection with material reception conditions is unlawful.
The case involved an Afghan national who sought international protection in Ireland, but was not provided with accommodation, nor other basic needs, on his arrival.
He was told that accommodation would be provided once space became available, and was given a supermarket voucher to the value of €28.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, which joined the case as amicus curiae (friend of the court), welcomed the ruling.
It said that the case had raised important questions about the duty of the State towards international-protection applicants.
In his judgment, which referenced EU law and previous rulings by the EU’s top court, Mr Justice Charles Meenan stated that, even if accommodation facilities were overloaded, “alternative steps should be taken by the Minister”.
These may include giving “financial allowances” or referring people to “bodies within the general public-assistance system”.
The judge said that the fact that the Minister was making efforts to secure accommodation did not absolve him of his obligations under EU (Reception Conditions) Regulations 2018.
The regulations require member state to provide material reception conditions – including accommodation, food and basic hygiene facilities.
“Clearly, giving the applicant a €28 voucher for Dunnes Stores and the addresses of private charities does not come close to what is required,” Mr Justice Meenan said.
Sinéad Gibney (IHREC Chief Commissioner) said: “We welcome this important ruling from the High Court – not least for this man, whose first experience of seeking protection in our country saw him sleeping in its streets, in some of the coldest months.”
She said that she hoped the judgment would remind the State that fulfilling its duty towards such people was “not optional, but obligatory”.