Submission by Independent Law Centres to the Anti-Racism Committee’s Public Consultation on a new National Action Plan against Racism for Ireland, July 2021

This joint submission by  Community Law & Mediation,  Mercy Law Resource Centre, Ballymun Community Law Centre, the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the Irish Refugee Council makes the case for an expanded system of civil legal aid and supports for those who experience racism and discrimination in seeking redress.

The submission also makes recommendations which aim to improve accessibility in the areas of the justice system, the labour market and accommodation for racial minorities in Ireland.

Summary of Recommendations

  1. We propose the Civil Legal Aid Scheme be expanded to cover discrimination cases taken to the WRC under employment equality and equal status legislation, as well as in other quasi-judicial tribunals such as the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the PRTB.
  2. We propose a review of the complaints process under the Equal Status Acts to be carried out with a view to making the process more accessible through the provision of increased time limits and supports.
  3. We propose that the maximum award which may be awarded under the Equal Status Acts by an adjudication officer in the WRC be increased.
  4. We propose the roll-out of an information campaign targeted towards racial minorities on the process of making a complaint of discrimination under the Equal Status Acts.
  5. We support the expedient passing into law of hate crime legislation.
  6. We propose a significant reduction in the processing times for international protection applications so as to reduce time spent in Direct Provision and so that individuals in the international protection process so that applicants can move forward with their lives and plan for their future.
  7. The International Protection Office and International Protection Appeals Tribunal must be given the financial, technological and personnel resources to issue decisions to applicants within a reasonable timeframe.
  8. The Government ought to introduce, without delay, the recommendation made by the Advisory Group on the Provision of Support including Accommodation to Persons in the International Protection Process, in which individuals who have spent more than two years in the system would be given five years leave to remain status.
  9. We propose the implementation of cultural competency training and diversity training for members of the judiciary and staff of the justice system generally.
  10. We propose that interpreting services provided in courts, tribunals and to applicants for international protection are professionally regulated and that interpreters are required to undergo accreditation prior to providing such services
  11. We recommend that s19 is returned to the remit of the Workplace Relations Commission to increase accessibility in making a complaint of discrimination under this section
  12. We propose the roll-out of an information campaign on the process of proceeding with a claim under s19 to increase awareness and empowerment amongst members of the Traveller community in making a complaint of discrimination.
  13. We recommend a review of High Court Practice Direction 81 to ensure that applicants for Judicial Review do not face unreasonable additional burdens in seeking to challenge decisions relating to immigration and international protection.
  14. We welcome the acknowledgement of intersectional racism in the Interim Report and note its deep impact on the people we work with. We recommend providing targeted outreach support and information to vulnerable groups on access to justice.
  15. We propose a review of the requirement of the Habitual Residence Condition to be proved in respect of Child Benefit.
  16. We recommend the collection of data on ethnicity within the care system and access to information for children from minority groups who are within the care system.
  17. We recommend that steps are taken immediately to implement the White Paper to End Direct Provision, that the amnesty recommended by the Advisory Committee is introduced for those people seeking international protection for a specified period and that vulnerability assessments are carried out in respect of all applicants for international protection, and that accommodation is designated in line with individuals’ special reception needs as assessed.
  18. We propose an increase of the rate of social assistance provided to asylum seekers while the new system is being developed.
  19. We recommend the organisation of diversity awareness workshops at Direct Provision centres to tackle issues of racism and hate crime towards people of other nationalities, races and sexual orientations.
  20. We recommend a review to be carried out on Housing Circular 41/2012 to ensure that it is brought in line with current laws and that EEA nationals are not unlawfully discriminated against in accessing social housing supports. If the Circular or a version of it are to be retained, guidance should be provided to housing authorities regarding the implementation of such non-legislative circulars to eliminate inconsistencies in application.
  21. We recommend that the practice of some local authorities requiring non-Irish nationals to provide burdensome legal declarations to confirm that they own no property in another jurisdiction be ended.
  22. We recommend that consideration be given to the issuing of guidance to housing authorities on the proper exercise of discretion, and that such guidance highlight the particular burden that this test can impose on minority groups.
  23. We recommend the implementation of the recommendations of the Traveller Accommodation Expert Review Report 2019.
  24. We recommend that Civil Legal Aid in the form of specialist advice and representation in the areas of forced evictions and discrimination experienced by Travellers is provided for in order to ensure equal access to justice in the area of accommodation.
  25. We propose the roll-out of information campaigns targeted specifically at tenants and landlords, on the provisions of the Equal Status Acts and means for redress under the Acts.
  26. We propose stronger involvement of the Rental Tenancies Board in ensuring landlords accept HAP and rent supplement.
  27. We propose the roll-out of an information campaign on Employment Equality legislation and the means of redress through the WRC.
  28. We propose appropriate translations of such resources be made available.
  29. We propose that the maximum award of compensation available to a WRC adjudicator in circumstances where the complainant is not an employee of the respondent be increased.