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Will the Irish Government be forced to compensate unhoused asylum seekers? 

A recent High Court Decision which found that the State had failed to provide “material reception conditions” to an Afghan asylum seeker has raised questions about whether others who were also  not provided  with  accommodation will  take similar action. 

The case arose after the Afghan man came to Ireland on the 7th of February this year and was not immediately provided with accommodation while his claim for international protection was being processed. 

He says he was given a €28 Dunnes Stores voucher and ended up begging on the streets and sleeping rough. 

With the assistance of NGO the Irish Refugee Council, the young man took a High Court case against the Irish state, Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman, the Attorney General, and the Child and Family Agency.

The court found that the state had failed in its duty to house the man with the presiding judge saying that what was provided by Minister Roderic O’Gorman “fell far short of what is required”. 

A report featured in the Irish Examiner this morning lays out fears that hundreds of others who were not provided with accommodation on arrival may take similar action which could result in the State being forced to make a “significant payout” to such individuals. 

As it stands, 538 people are reported to have arrived in Ireland and claimed asylum without being provided with State accommodation. 

 As Gript readers will likely be aware, Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman published information leaflets in six different languages inviting people from far flung areas of the world to come and live in Ireland along with promises of “own door” accommodation within four months of arrival. 

This was done at a time when the country was – and is – in the grip of an unprecedented housing and accommodation crisis  with tens of thousands of people languishing on council housing lists, some for well over a decade. 

Regardless of how one might feel about the seeming laxity of the current asylum system – where all one has to do is arrive at Dublin airport and utter the magic word ‘asylum’ in order to oblige the Irish state to process a lengthy asylum claim – the fact is that these people were invited here by our government. 

As the UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman, observed about Britain, this has created a situation where 100s of millions of people are entitled to come to a country and demand that their claims be processed.

Many likely come knowing that Ireland’s asylum refusal rate is a measly 15-20%, compared to countries like Austria where there is a 60% refusal rate. 

Indeed this county’s asylum refusal rate is below the EU norm as highlighted by my colleague Dr. Matt Treacy, who wrote:

“It is also apparent that some of the main nationalities who claim asylum here, tend not to travel to countries closer to them as the level of rejection is overwhelming.  In the case of people from Georgia who claim asylum across the EU, just 8% were granted protection.

Presumably, the states which reject bogus applications do not then facilitate them in the way in which the Irish state does, and which explains why so many of them travel to Ireland to make an application in the knowledge that once you manage to enter the country, you will most likely be allowed to stay for many years regardless of the validity of your claim to asylum.” 

Given that the High Court ruled in favour of the man and effectively forced the State to provide him with free accommodation – a quasi right to housing -what could this mean in the medium to long term as 100s of people continue to arrive on our shores every month saying the magic words? 

In the course of reporting on this issue, this writer has interviewed a number of people living in Direct Provision centres in Dublin. 

None of these people – although some  are from countries which aren’t exactly prime holiday destinations – have been from places which are internationally declared as war zones or unsafe.

Does this mean then that Ireland has an international duty to simply provide people who come here and say ‘asylum’ with better lives? 

And if so what does that mean for natives of this land? 

Looking at the reality of how Ireland’s direct provision system works it is difficult to see how keeping people in facilities where many undocumented, unvetted males are housed alongside women and children – sometimes for years on end – is indeed a better life for anyone.

Let’s look at possible outcomes for someone living in direct provision in this county. 

Some of these asylum seekers, if recognised as refugees, will speak English, and possess cultural knowledge and qualifications that allow them to succeed in this country, but are they the majority?

As someone who has lived and worked in non-English speaking countries let me tell you it is extremely difficult. 

It is extremely difficult to access and be successful in well paid jobs when one lacks a high level of fluency in the language of the land. 

The thought that many of these people kept in direct provision centres will emerge and be able to access jobs which allow them to earn a decent salary in this country is, in my opinion, naive at best. 

So who wins here? Is it the thousands of asylum seekers coming into the country, many of whom now have legal precedent to sue the state for failing to accommodate them? 

Is it the families in direct provision centers who say they feel their children are at risk? 

Is it the successful asylum applicants who emerge and try to compete economically or become dependent on social welfare? 

Or it is the NGOs who receive billions of taxpayers money every year and can take cases on behalf of the people who are now in a great position to sue Ireland. 

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