Yesterday, the Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly launched a well reasoned critique of the direct provision system (news coverage here and all Human Rights in Ireland’s posts on direct provision here ). This follows on from Ombudsman O’Reilly’s most recent investigation relating to an asylum seeker refused a social welfare payment that she was entitled to.While the Ombudsman is prevented from investigating maladministration in immigration and naturalisation issues, so the Irish Nationality and Immigration Service is beyond its supervisory powers, the governmental departments responsible for the direct provision system are not. These include the Department of Justice and Equality, through the provision of accommodation via the Reception and Integration Agency and the Department of Social Protection , through making direct provision allowance payment of €19.10 per week per adult and €9.60 per week per child._Although as I have noted on a number of occasions, the Department is prohibited from making this payment by virtue of Irish social welfare law.
The reliance on administrative system of direct provision that actively undermined statutory rights for a significant period between 2000-2009 shows how easily legal rights, in particular legislative rights under social welfare law, can be placed at naught through:
- A Parliament subservient to the Executive,
- An Executive intent on impoverishing an unpopular group in society,
- Public disinterest in the rights of asylum seekers and/or an active hostility towards those claiming asylum;
- Those administering the social welfare system allowing their discretion to be fettered by government circulars (and ignoring law) ;
- Courts that are wary of impinging or in any way recognising rights of life, bodily integrity, and family rights as including any form of social and economic protections.
Despite a steady stream of Parliamentary questions on the system of direct provision in the last number of weeks, there seems to be no appetite for reform in Government. Although Emily O’Reilly will be setting off to Europe shortly, it would be hoped that the interest of the Ombudsman’s office on the issue of direct provision will continue.