On Friday, 14th November 2014, the High Court will deliver its decision on the challenge to the direct provision system in the case of C.A and T.A. (a minor) v Minister for Justice and Equality, Minister for Social Protection, the Attorney General and Ireland (Record No. 2013/751/JR). For background on this case, see here and here. Whatever the outcome of this case, mobilisation efforts to protest against the system will continue, see details of the protest to be held on Universal Children’s Day, 20 November, here. There have been significant number of protests over the last while at various direct provision centres organised by asylum seekers and their supporters. TV3’s documentary on The Irish Asylum Seeker Scandal heard first hand from asylum seekers significantly affected by years of living in direct provision.
Earlier this week the Working Group on the Protection and Direct Provision System met for the first time. Concerns have been raised as regards the composition of the group, and in particular the absence of representation from individuals currently in the direct provision system (see here and here). The terms of reference for the working group are narrow. Reference to ensuring the dignity of the person is welcome. There is no mention of legal obligations upon this State to provide for asylum seekers, in particular the clear obligation under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, for those under 18 seeking asylum (or are part of families seeking asylum), that there can be no differentiation as regards rights entitlements as compared to citizen/resident children in Ireland. The right to work for asylum seekers is not specifically mentioned. The precise impact that the Working Group can have on new legislation putting in place a single protection procedure, when this Single Protection Bill is to be published in January 2015 is unclear (unless the Working Group will get a draft of this legislation before formal publication for comment and review). The Working Group will not deliver its final report until April 2015 (the 15th anniversary of direct provision). It is also not clear whether the working methods of the Working Group will allow for submissions, meetings and discussions with asylum seekers to discuss their concerns and experiences in the direct provision system.
Given that it is well over one year since the Northern Ireland High Court has refused to return a family to direct provision in the Republic of Ireland, it remains to be seen whether changes (if any) to the direct provision system will be substantial or merely cosmetic. Even before the Working Group has had an opportunity to consider the direct provision system it has already been made clear by Minister of State, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin T.D. that direct provision will not be abolished. Minister Ó Ríordáin has stated:
[Direct Provision] is not something that can be simply be wished away or ended immediately. The Government has also to take account of the broader context of the challenging picture in relation to the public finances and the competing demands on them.