FLAC welcomes report of UN independent expert
20 May 2011
"Human rights are not a policy option, dispensable during times of economic hardship."
The independent legal rights organisation FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) welcomes the report of the UN independent expert, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, on the question of human rights and extreme poverty in Ireland, following her mission here this past January. Commenting on the report, FLAC's Policy and Campaigns Officer, Saoirse Brady believes: "it is important that the Government takes note of the issues highlighted by Ms Sepúlveda and adopt the recommendations contained in this comprehensive report, in particular the need to ensure that all rights protected under international human rights treaties are given full effect in Irish domestic law - including immediately undertaking a human rights review of all budgetary and recovery policies."
The recommendations made by the independent expert echo some of FLAC's key concerns, including the need to ensure that legal representation is available under the remit of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 for those appearing before the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the Employment Appeals Tribunal. She also stressed the importance of strengthening the current social protection system and removing barriers which can prevent vulnerable groups from accessing their entitlements. In this regard she expressed concern that the Habitual Residence Condition "represents a considerable obstacle" for marginalised groups and called for the decisions of the Social Welfare Appeals Office to be published.
FLAC is also pleased to note that this report calls for the swift adoption of a single procedure for determining refugee and subsidiary protection claims, in particular given the length of time that asylum seekers currently spend in direct provision accommodation. Furthermore, the Independent Expert highlighted that the State has an obligation to ensure that those seeking its protection are guaranteed the enjoyment of all human rights, including the right to private and family life and the right to an adequate standard of living including access to the labour market.
However, Saoirse Brady stressed that "while FLAC welcomes this report and the recommendations contained therein it is now essential for the Government to make a commitment to treat this as a priority issue and put people at the heart of any policy decisions, including bringing about the "modern, fair, socially inclusive and equal society" envisaged in the Programme for Government and National Recovery."
1. The report of the UN Independent Expert, Magdalena Sepulveda Carmona, on the question of human rights and extreme poverty in Ireland, is available to download at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/17session/A.HRC.17.34.Add.2_en.pdf
2. Following her recent visit to Ireland Ms. Sepúlveda commented: "Human rights are not dispensable and cannot be disregarded in times of economic uncertainty. On the contrary, these are times in which people become more susceptible to potential infringements on their basic rights and have higher risks of falling into poverty." Access to justice is one of these rights and in these challenging times FLAC is committed to defending and promoting this right.
3. You can view the Briefing submitted by FLAC to the UN Independent Expert, which includes some recommendations that have subsequently been incorporated into the final report, at http://www.flac.ie/download/pdf/briefing_for_un_independent_expert_on_human_rights_and_extreme_poverty_january_2011.pdf
4. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent human rights organisation which works to promote equal access to justice for all. It runs a lo-call telephone information line giving general legal information and supports a network of evening FLAC clinics around Ireland.