Government cannot be accused of inaction over needs of asylum seekers, court told

State responding to case taken by IHREC over alleged lack of ‘material reception conditions’ for some adult male international protection applicants

The Government cannot be accused of inaction over its obligations to meet the basic needs of those from other countries seeking international protection in the State, the High Court heard.

David Conlan Smyth SC told the court that if one looks at the dramatic increase in the number of people seeking accommodation and support in the last two years, and what the State has done to meet their needs, there is not any case of Government inaction or indifference.

Mr Conlan Smyth was making arguments on behalf of the Minister for Integration, the Attorney General and the State in reply to the case being brought by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) over the alleged lack of “material reception conditions” for many adult male international protection applicants.

He said that in the last two years there have been 96,000 people seeking accommodation, whether as international protection applicants or fleeing the war in Ukraine under the EU Temporary Protection Directive, which provides visa waivers for Ukrainians coming to the EU along with access to the labour market, social protection and other supports.


Some 30,000 of those are international protection applicants, who must go through the asylum process. He said this represents at least a tripling of the numbers while overall the number of people seeking accommodation had increased 11-fold. The State has been drawing from the same finite pool of accommodation but despite that it has managed to roll out 11 times the amount of accommodation that had been available, he said.

Counsel said it had been decided there is a need to move away from a system where commercial enterprise-provided accommodation to a State-owned system that would be able to accommodate 13,000 people a year, augmented by contingent accommodation for 11,000 provided in the commercial sector.

Across the EU, he said, the number of applications for accommodation grew from 714,000 to 1.14 million during the last two years, an increase of 59 per cent.

However, Ireland almost uniquely faced a much greater increase of 185 per cent. “So the figures themselves are stark and show the scale of the challenge posed,” counsel said.

He added that this was not a case of Government inaction, which was important in terms of the legal position and whether the State is meeting its legal obligations under the EU directive or the human rights charter.

Counsel said the difficulties faced also have to be considered against “a reality of hostility” and 24-hour protests such as at the former Crown Paints factory in Coolock, Dublin, where plans for a 550-capacity centre were being stalled. There had also been public order offences, criminal damage and arson incidents at some 15 locations in the last 24 months.

Given these “significant challenges”, he said, the respondents say they are not in breach of their obligations.

While IHREC has argued that the question of what to do is a matter for the State, and not it, counsel said it is fair to say they are asking that there are two options available: the doubling or tripling of the daily monetary allowance and/or to provide accommodation immediately.

However, counsel said even if the allowance was increased to allow people to get their own accommodation, there is a very significant obstacle entirely beyond the control of the State – the fact that accommodation providers require passports and credit cards to book accommodation and the State cannot address these issues.

The allowance had been increased last December from €35 per week to €113.80 when the Government first announced there were difficulties in providing accommodation to single male applicants, he said. That figure has to be considered in the context of where access is also provided to services during the daytime, including food, showers, phone charging and wifi, and access to health professionals, he said.

He said the rate here is in line with or higher than countries such as Germany (€95.90) and France (€99.40). The figure complies with the requirement for the harmonisation of conditions so that “secondary movement” (from one country to another) by applicants is not influenced by large differences in rates.

The case continues before Mr Justice Barry O’Donnell.