PhD Project: Institutionalised Inhumanity: Direct Provision and the threshold of inhuman treatment

Technological University Dublin


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  • Dublin
    Technological University Dublin
    Sep 14, 2020

Direct provision is the system through which the State meets the basic needs of asylum-seekers in Ireland. For almost 20 years, direct provision existed on a non-statutory basis, prompting remarkably few cases before the Irish Courts of Law.

It was not until 2014 that a mother and son brought a compelling challenge against the system, citing it as a form of inhuman and degrading treatment. The High Court held that the applicants’ had failed to prove how their experience of direct provision was so severe as to constitute inhuman treatment. With 7,000 people in direct provision today, however, it is very likely that some of their experiences surpass that threshold of severity.

This project seeks to define that threshold using two methods:

  1. A doctrinal analysis of the relevant Irish and European case-law to establish what circumstances may qualify as ‘inhuman and degrading treatment,’ and;
  2. Semi-structured interviews with residents of direct provision centres to ascertain whether their experiences of direct provision go beyond the evidential threshold set in the 2014 High Court case.

This project comes at a time when the issue of direct provision is at the forefront of Irish public consciousness. This project will be central to the effort to ensure that the framework for accommodating asylum-seekers in Ireland—in its present or revised form—complies with the State’s international and human rights obligations. The research pursued as part of this project can inform a rights-based alternative to direct provision that avoids the mistakes of the past. The project will also complement other scholarly efforts to make sense of Ireland’s contemporary history of institutionalisation through the lived experiences of those caught up in direct provision