S.Y. v Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth & ors


S.Y. v Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth & ors
Respondent/Defendant:The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Ireland, the Attorney General, the Child and Family Agency
Court/s:High Court
Citation/s:[2023] IEHC 187
Nature of Proceedings:Judicial Review
Judgment Date/s:21 Apr 2023
Judge: Meenan C.
Category:Asylum, Refugee Law
Keywords:Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Child, Minor, Protection (Application for International), Reception Conditions, Reception Conditions (Material)
Country of Origin:Afghanistan

Facts: The appellant was a 17-year-old Afghan national who applied for international protection in Ireland. He did not have documents to prove his age when he applied for international protection, and it was believed by authorities that he was an adult. When he applied, he was informed that there was no accommodation available for international protection applicants. He was given a €28 voucher for Dunnes Stores and the address of a Capuchin Day Centre, a private charity. For three weeks, the applicant had to sleep rough, resort to begging for food and did not have access to basic hygiene conditions, including a bathroom. He stated that while sleeping rough he felt constantly scared and in danger. The applicant applied to the High Court to seek a number of reliefs by way of judicial review. This application was one of many that concerned single males who had applied for international protection in Ireland and who were not provided with accommodation for a period of time thereafter.  

Reasoning: First, on the question of mootness, Meenan J. held that although accommodation had been found for the appellant after three weeks, it remained a live issue for other cases.  

Meenan J then turned to the declarations sought: firstly, that the Minister failed to perform his public duty in providing the applicant with material reception conditions and secondly, that in doing so, breached the applicant’s right to a dignified standard of living. While the Minister submitted that these declarations were unnecessary as the Minister had accepted failure to provide accommodation and was making efforts to do so, Meenan J. held that this would hold if accommodation was the only requirement on the Minister, but the Minister was also required to provide other material reception conditions including food and basic hygiene facilities. Meenan J. recognised that this lack of access deprived the applicant of the most basic standard of living.  

Meenan J. held that regulations must be interpreted in a manner consistent with the EU Directive that they transpose, which meant that the court must have regard to Article 35 of the recast Reception Conditions Directive and the reference to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (CFREU) therein.  

With reference to the CJEU cases of Haqbin (C-233/80) and Saciri (C-79/13), it was recognised that even if accommodation facilities are full, alternative steps should have been taken by the Minister such as providing a financial allowance or referring the applicant to the general public assistance system. Meenan J., with specific reference to Article 1 CFREU on human dignity, found that in the instant case, the Dunnes Stores voucher and direction to private charities did not come close to what was required by law. 

Decision: The applicant was granted a declaration that the Minister unlawfully failed to provide him with material reception conditions as required under the European Union (Reception Conditions) Regulations 2018 and the Minister’s failure to do so was in breach of the applicant’s rights under Article 1 of the CFREU.   

Principles: Failure to provide an applicant with material reception conditions is unlawful under the European Union (Reception Conditions) Regulations 2018 and such a failure is a breach of the right to human dignity under Article 1 CFREU.
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