Blog Symposium 6: The Rights of Vulnerable Asylum Seekers in Ireland & the EU Reception Directive

EASOPrior to Ireland’s opt-in to the EU Reception Directive been approved, evidence will need to be shown that Irish law  “take[s] into account the specific situation” of “vulnerable asylum seekers”, with indicative examples given under Article 21 of the EU Reception Directive:

…such as minors, unaccompanied minors, disabled people, elderly people, pregnant women, single parents with minor children, victims of human trafficking, persons with serious illnesses, persons with mental disorders and persons who have been subjected to torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence, such as victims of female genital mutilation

Article 22 of the EU Reception Directive obliges a State to undertake an assessment of an asylum seekers vulnerability within a reasonable time-frame, however this assessment “need not take the form of an administrative procedure.”  States must ensure that vulnerable asylum seekers have their special needs taken into account when provided with reception conditions. The precise obligation upon Member States seems quite loose, and it is difficult to pin-point what Member States actually have to do. Articles 23 to 25 do set down some additional measures States must adopt for children, separated children and victims of torture and violence.

Even the European Asylum Support Office guidance on Article 21 & 22 is quite vague, potentially indicating that medical/psychological professionals may be involved in determining vulnerability. More information on the potential types of support that could be provided does occur within the EASO Tool for the Identification of Persons with Special Needs.

What precisely constitutes special reception needs will differ between vulnerable asylum seekers. There may be situations where a vulnerable asylum seeker may need additional monetary support, differing accommodation needs that other asylum seekers, or be located near medical or psychological services. All of this could potentially impact on the ‘one size fits all‘ model of  direct provision currently operating in Ireland. However, in the abstract, it is difficult to precisely identify what supports may have to be put in place for a vulnerable asylum seeker.

Current practice in relation to aged-out separated children shows how restrictive the ‘one size fits all’ model can be. In a 2017 article  Dr Muireann Ni Raghaillaigh and I published (open access version here), one interviewee noted the following in relation to an  separated children, who are about to turn 18 and be moved into the direct provision system:

I spent months in correspondence with members of the HSE … setting out all the inherent vulnerabilities in separated children, but specifically related to the individuals whom I was working with, which were serious mental health concerns, suicidal ideation, losing two stone in the process of moving from a foster placement into direct provision accommodation. … and what I received back, was “That’s not vulnerable enough. Sorry”.

It should also be noted that victims of trafficking provided with a recovery and reflection period, are placed in the direct provision system. Therefore, it is likely that Ireland will argue the system of direct provision can cater for the needs of particularly vulnerable asylum applicants. So, Ireland will have to legislate (in some form) to identify vulnerable asylum seekers, but this may not significantly impact on the actual rights of vulnerable asylum seekers.

This concludes the Blog Symposium, which attempted to explore some aspects of the impact of Ireland’s opt-in to the EU Reception Directive. You can find all posts for this Symposium here.