A South African family seeking asylum in Ireland was transferred from a hotel in Co Wicklow last month in circumstances where the State’s international protection accommodation system is facing “unprecedented pressure”, the High Court has been told.
David Conlan Smyth SC said the State parties will contest the family’s proceedings, which allege a decision to transfer them to a hotel in Co Mayo came without proper warning, was “irrational” and breached their rights under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Mr Conlan Smyth said the State is dealing with about five times the number of international protection applicants it would in a normal year.
The State has provided accommodation to 40,000 Ukrainian refugees, a cohort that was not represented at all in international protection figures prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he added.
Mr Conlan Smyth said there is “simply nothing available” to accommodate the family in Co Wicklow. “If the family was to be moved back to Wicklow, another family would be dislodged,” he said.
The court heard an education welfare officer is making contact with schools in an attempt to secure school places in Co Mayo for the family's children. There is some delay in these efforts as the schools are on holiday, he added.
In a sworn statement, the mother said her family settled into life in Wicklow, with the children making friends at local schools and sporting clubs.
They sought protection in Ireland in July due to “extreme violence” being levelled against them in their home country and ineffective state protection there, she said.
'More suitable accommodation'
In the Wicklow hotel, the family was initially placed in a shared room with a large number of other people and was later given a private room, she said.
On October 13th, the family was “shocked” to receive a letter from the International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS), notifying them they would transfer to “more suitable accommodation”.
The woman said they were given two days’ warning before they were transported, on October 19th, to a roofless cubicle in the gymnasium of hotel in Co Mayo.
Earlier this week, Mr Justice Brian O’Moore gave the family permission to give short notice to the State parties of a motion seeking a temporary injunction that would compel the State to return them to their previous accommodation.
Alternatively, the family wanted an order requiring the State to carry out “such action as is necessary and appropriate” to ensure the children can continue to attend their schools in Wicklow.
The various State parties appreciate the urgency of this case, Mr Conlan Smyth told the judge, when the case returned on Thursday. However, they needed just under a week to file defences, he said.
The family’s counsel, Tony McGillicuddy SC, with Harriet Burgess BL, said the State’s reference to school holidays showed its “lack of urgency” in dealing with the matter.
The family gave plenty of notice, he said, as they tried to address their concerns through correspondence prior to coming to court.
Mr Justice O’Moore scheduled a hearing of the family’s application, seeking injunctions to last until the main trial of the case, for November 15th.
As well as the injunctions, the family wants various declarations, including that the decision to move them was made in breach of the European Communities (Reception Conditions) Regulations 2018, which lays down the standards for the reception of international protection applicants.
The family further asks the court to declare that the State parties have failed to properly transpose the EU Directive that underpins the 2018 Regulations.
Their case is against the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, the Minister for Justice, the Minister for Education, Ireland, and the Attorney General.