High Court reporters
A High Court Judge has noted that community protests have prevented the State from allocating over 335 beds to international protection applicants who require accommodation.
Mr Justice Charles Meenan remarked on the protests, and the number of beds at two facilities that the State cannot allocate, after being informed that the number of international protection applicants seeking accommodation has fallen in recent weeks from approximately 500 to 217 persons.
The judge said the State should be able to accommodate the remaining persons who are seeking accommodation but were “unable to do so” because of the protests at the two facilities.
Last month, in a decision in a lead case over the issue, the judge ruled the Minister for Integration’s failure to provide “material reception conditions” for a homeless Afghan asylum seeker was not in compliance with EU (Reception Conditions) Regulations 2018.and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
This case, and several other similar cases, in which orders are sought compelling the minister provide proper reception conditions, came back before the judge on Wednesday when the court was updated about the State’s efforts to source additional accommodation to meet the demand.
In a sworn statement to the court Carol Baxter, Assistant Secretary General with responsibility for the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) at the Department of Children Equality Disability Integration and Youth, said some continuing efforts are being made to secure places for international protection seekers.
The court had previously been told the situation had become extremely difficulty because of an increase in the numbers of persons seeking international protection and because of the loss of thousands of beds when accommodation contracts ended earlier this year.
She said that the situation has improved since the court was last updated.
Additional offers of accommodation were being made to the IPS, and in the recent weeks over 280 people were given places at the Citywest Transit Hub and at a facility in Kilbride, in Co Wicklow.
She said that the Department has three large projects in train which will generate 1200 additional beds, one of which came into use last week and resulted in 220 beds being offered..
Regulatory issues were being resolved in respect of two other properties, which collectively have a capacity for 460 beds, she said.
It is further hoped that more places will become available at CityWest and Kilbride.
The court heard that since the end of January approximately 1000 asylum seekers who were initially without accommodation have now been offered a place to stay.
Counsel David Conlan Smyth SC said that while the Department would prefer if the number was zero the number of persons currently unaccommodated has been reduced to 217 person.
However, considerable progress has been made against what Ms Baxter said were “not inconsiderable headwinds.”
Ms Baxter added that IPAS has introduced a new system to assess the vulnerability of persons seeking international protection, and has been working with homeless charity Marchant’s Quay Ireland to offer a clinic each Wednesday to unaccommodated international protection applicants.
The judge after hearing the updated situation, noted that in the majority of the cases before him, the applicants have been offered accommodation by IPAS.
As a result, he said most of the urgent issues in the various High Court actions launched by those seeking accommodation have in reality come to an end.
The judge said he was adjourning the cases “en-bloc” to a date in June.
In the meantime, he urged the parties’ legal teams to address themselves to dealing with the outstanding matters that remain in the cases, namely the issue of damages and the legal costs of the proceedings.
During the proceedings lawyers for some of the applicants said their clients had been accommodated while others said their clients had been left in an “unacceptable” situation because they have only been offered a chair to sleep on in the locations they are staying.
The judge said that he noted that some persons have only been offered chairs but noted that a system has been put in place by IPAS to allocate beds for those who are currently on chairs.
The judge also said that the court was “reluctant” to get into what he said was “a supervisory role.”
The matter will return before Mr Justice Meenan on June 14th next.