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High Court to hear challenge to direct provision system

A family of six is taking a case to the High Court arguing that the system for housing asylum seekers is unconstitutional.

Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE HIGH COURT is to hear the initial phase of a challenge to the controversial system of direct provision.

A family of six is taking a case to the courts arguing that the system for housing and detaining asylum seekers is unconstitutional. The family has been staying in direct provision centres for more than four years.

They argue that the system was unlawfully established, has no legal basis and continues to operate unlawfully, violating the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. They also contend that stopping asylum seekers from working or from receiving social welfare payments breaches personal, family and equality rights under the Constitution.

Direct provision centres were set up in 2000 and there are currently 35 of them around the country. They are run by private contractors on State contracts.

Concerns about the centres have been raised by various groups, including UN committees, groups which work with asylum seekers, and Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly. A High Court judge in Northern Ireland recently pointed to “ample” evidence of physical and mental health issues among asylum seekers staying in direct provision accommodation.

Close to 5,000 people are kept in the centres while they wait for their application for asylum to be heard. Applicants are given accommodation, three meals a day, and €19.10 per week in the centres. They are neither allowed to work nor to claim state benefits while they are resident there.

The average length of time spent in the centres is now around 4 years.

The case will be for mention before Mr Justice Colm Mac Eochaidh at the High Court on Tuesday, when he may proceed to a date for a full hearing, strike out the case or postpone a decision.

Column: Court challenge to Direct Provision could save millions in taxpayers’ money >

Read: Court won’t send family back to Direct Provision housing in Ireland due to child welfare concerns >

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