Press release:  Irish Refugee Council welcomes judgment of High Court that failure to provide accommodation to international protection applicants is unlawful and breaches applicant’s rights under EU law

The High Court today declared that the State’s failure to provide accommodation, food and basic hygiene facilities to a newly arrived international protection applicant was unlawful and breached the Applicant’s Right to Dignity under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. 

The Irish Refugee Council Independent Law Centre represented the Applicant, a 17-year-old, who was forced to leave his home and life in Afghanistan due to threats from the Taliban. When he sought international protection in Ireland, he was told that there was no accommodation available, and was instead provided with a 25-euro Dunnes voucher. This left him in a situation of street homelessness, and the ensuing degradations, including cold, rain, hunger, fear, danger, and theft of personal belongings, for three weeks. 

The applicant is one of over 900 protection applicants who have not been offered accommodation since 24th January. As of 20 April, 531 applicants remain homeless. Mr Justice Meenan heard this matter as a “lead case” to determine the legal issues and entitlements as there were numerous other similar applications from applicants who remained homeless after several weeks.  Mr Justice Meenan recognised that, “By reason of the failure of the Minister the Applicant has been forced to live and sleep rough, beg for food and has been deprived of basic hygiene conditions. In addition, the applicant has been exposed to personal attack and danger and subjected to humiliation”. 

Ireland committed to providing international protection applicants with “material reception conditions” by opting into the relevant EU legislation in 2018. The Reception Conditions Directive ensures that, wherever they apply for international protection in Europe, an adequate standard of living will be provided.   

In finding a breach of the Reception Conditions Regulations, Mr Justice Meenan stated that, “Directing persons such as the applicant to private charities to receive supports which the Minister is obliged to give cannot be seen as anything other than completely unacceptable” and that it “does not come remotely close to what is required by law”. He found that, “Even though the Minister is making efforts to secure accommodation this does not absolve him of his obligations under the Regulations.” 

Katie Mannion, Managing Solicitor at the Irish Refugee Council’s Independent Law Centre said: 

“We welcome the very strong judgment of the High Court, which has declared that the appalling treatment of our client is unlawful, and a breach of their Dignity under Article 1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. We believe that this is the first time that a Declaration has issued that Ireland has violated the Charter of Fundamental Rights.  

We remain extremely concerned for the health and safety of the men who have been experiencing street homelessness for as long as eight weeks before accommodation is provided. These High Court Declarations must lead to immediate action on the State’s part to provide food and shelter to those who have sought protection in Ireland.” 

Nick Henderson CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said:

“The Irish Refugee Council welcomes the judgement by Mr Justice Meenan and urges all of government to immediately put in place measures to accommodate more than 500 international protection applicants who are currently experiencing street homelessness. We have been contacted by at least 290 people who are homeless, may are experiencing health problems, some have been assaulted and robbed and are living in fear on the streets. These are people who have sought sanctuary in Ireland, but have not received any of the protections which Ireland has committed to provide to them.” 

It is clear from the decisions of the European Court of Justice on the Reception Conditions Directive that, even if accommodation facilities are overloaded, alternative steps should be taken by the Minister which may include giving “financial allowances” or referring persons, such as the applicant, to “bodies within the general public assistance system”. It is high time for other government departments, in particular the Department of Housing, to support the Department of Children and people who are homeless”.  

 Notes for editors:   

  • The applicants were represented by Kate Mannion, Managing Solicitor and Virginija Petrauskaite, Solicitor of the Irish Refugee Council Independent Law Centre and Counsel Colm O’Dwyer SC and Colin Smyth BL.
  • The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) intervened as Amicus.   
  • The court’s decision is available here.  
  • Our Drop-in Centre have assisted 292 homeless applicants since January 24. 


For further information or comments, contact: 

Katie Mannion (IRC Law Centre Managing Solicitor) 085 8585510/ [email protected] 

Nick Henderson (CEO) 085 858 5559/ [email protected]  

Wendy Muperi (Communications Officer) 085 855 0434/ [email protected]