Commission granted leave by the High Court, seeking to compel the State to fulfil its international protection obligations

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (the ‘Commission’) has today brought proceedings before the High Court in its own name, seeking to address the State’s failure to provide for the basic needs, including shelter, of people recently arrived in Ireland and seeking asylum.

In papers filed today, the Commission advised the High Court (Hyland J) that it had written to the Minister indicating its intention to use this legal power, for the first time since its establishment, because of the gravity of the situation and the nature of the destitution and risk faced by unaccommodated international protection (‘IP’) applicants.

The High Court has granted the Commission leave to judicially review the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (the ‘Minister’), Ireland and the Attorney General.

This legal action seeks to compel the State to fulfil its legal obligations to provide for the basic needs of IP applicants, including the provision of shelter, food and access to basic hygiene facilities. It also seeks declarations from the Court that the failure to provide for the basic needs of IP applicants breaches the human rights of the people affected.

IP applicants are entitled to receive material reception conditions under the EU’s Reception Conditions Directive and associated Irish Regulations, introduced in 2018.

Since January 2023, we have consistently raised its concern regarding this issue and has sought to address it through various mechanisms, including writing to the Minister on a number of occasions, as well as several public statements setting out its concerns.

Earlier this year, we provided legal assistance to homeless IP applicants affected by the State’s failure to provide for their basic needs, including accommodation, to advise them on their legal rights and to advocate on their behalf.

In April 2023, we also acted in our amicus curiae function (‘friend of the court’) in a case where the High Court held that the Minister’s failure to provide homeless IP applicants with material reception conditions was unlawful, and amounted to a breach of their right to dignity under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The judge in that case, Mr Justice Meehan, commented that if accommodation facilities are overloaded, then alternative steps must be taken by the Minister, which may include financial allowances.

Despite this High Court ruling and some changes to the provision being made in the meantime, it is the Commission’s case that the State continues to fail in its obligations. In the past two weeks, not all IP applicants arriving in Ireland have been offered State accommodation. As of 19th December 2023, 259 people seeking international protection have not been offered accommodation. The State’s figures show an increase, week on week, since 4 December 2023.

We are of the view that there is a very real and significant risk to the human rights of those people affected by the State’s failure to meet their basic needs.

In these proceedings, we are seeking a High Court declaration that the State’s failure to provide for the basic needs of IP applicants is in breach of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the ECHR and/or the Constitution. We are also seeking an order requiring the Minister to provide material reception conditions, including accommodation, and/or sufficient financial assistance to meet the basic needs of applicants.

Sinéad Gibney, Chief Commissioner of the Commission stated:

 “The State has an obligation to provide basic needs to people arriving here seeking international protection. Many of these people are extremely vulnerable, isolated, non-English speaking, afraid, financially destitute and unaware of their rights.

Despite this, they face the unacceptable reality of sleeping rough, in the middle of winter, on streets that have so recently seen groups fomenting anti-immigrant sentiment.

At the very least they must be provided with shelter and basic provisions. Leaving them to fend for themselves is not an option at any time of the year, but particularly as we face into the cold, Christmas period.”

As these proceedings have now been commenced, we will make no further comment at this time.


For further information, please contact:
Sarah Clarkin, IHREC Communications Manager,
01 852 9641 / 087 468 7760
Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Notes for Editors:

The Power of the Commission to Initiate Proceedings

The Commission’s function under section 10(1) of the 2014 Act include

  • to protect and promote human rights and equality
  • to encourage the development of a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State,
  • to promote understanding and awareness of the importance of human rights and equality in the State,
  • to encourage good practice in intercultural relations, to promote tolerance and acceptance of diversity in the State and respect for the freedom and dignity of each person, and
  • to work towards the elimination of human rights abuses, discrimination and prohibited conduct.

In furtherance of these functions, the Commission has the power “where is sees fit, to institute proceedings under section 41 or section 19 of the Act of 2003, as may be appropriate.”

Section 41 of the 2014 Act provides:

  • The Commission may institute proceedings in any court of competent jurisdiction for the purpose of obtaining relief of a declaratory or other nature in respect of any matter concerning the human rights of any person or class of persons.
  • The declaratory relief the Commission may seek to obtain in such proceedings includes relief by way of a declaration that an enactment or a provision thereof is invalid having regard to the provisions of the Constitution or was not continued in force by Article 50 of the Constitution.


The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures