The Irish High Court has ruled that a woman and her son are entitled to compensation for excessive delay in determining their application for subsidiary protection. The delay led to the woman spending five years in direct provision without child benefit, to which she would otherwise have been entitled. Mr Justice Michael White held that the State’s delay in deciding the woman’s application was “inordinate”, thus in breach of the rights of the woman and child under the Constitution and EU law.
The woman and her husband applied for international protection in Ireland in 2006 because of the risk faced by them in their home country. Their first child was born in 2007 while they resided in direct provision. They made their first application for child benefit in 2008, which was refused. It was not until May 2012, more than six years later, that a final decision was made on their protection application by the Minister for Justice and Equality and they were finally granted child benefit in respect of their son.
The principal issue was whether the delay in deciding their application for subsidiary protection, which also resulted in lack of access to social benefits including child benefit, was so unreasonable that the rights of the mother were breached under EU law and the Constitution. While the Court did not find that the refusal to pay child benefit to families in direct provision was a breach of rights per se, it did find that the delay on the part of the State in finally making a decision on their application for international protection was culpable. Accordingly, the State was liable to pay appropriate compensation.
According to Judge White, authorities should be conscious of the length of time asylum and protection applicants spend in direct provision. The woman gave evidence describing the “institutionalised regime” in the direct provision centre in which she and her family were housed, and Judge White held that, as very lengthy periods in direct provision are undesirable, it is incumbent on the Minister for Justice to ensure protection applications are processed within a reasonable time.
Click here for FLAC’s statement on the decision.