Europe this week Collective Complaint Win “Right to Housing of Adequate Standard” and Recommendation to European Member States on “Improving access to justice for Roma and Travellers”
Congratulations to Ballymun Community Law Centre, FLAC and Community Action Network who took a Collective Complaint with the support of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) to the European Committee on Social Rights on behalf of Local Authority tenants and who found in their favour that Local Authorities have failed to “ensure the right to housing of an adequate standard for a not insignificant number of families”.
The judgment, which impacts on all tenants in council / local authority homes, of the Committee on Social Rights ruled that Ireland is in violation of Article 16 of the revised European Social Charter, which recognises that “the family as a fundamental unit of society has the right to appropriate social, legal and economic protection to ensure its full development”.
In May 2106 Ireland was also found to be in violation across five grounds of Article 16 in a Collective Complaint supported by the Irish Traveller Movement Law Centre including “on the grounds of insufficient provision of accommodation for Travellers”, “that many Traveller sites are in inadequate condition” and in current legislation and practice where Travellers are threatened with evictions which were without the necessary safeguards.
The Committee recalled the obligations stemming from the Charter “of the right of families to housing as it applies to nomadic or semi nomadic groups such as Travellers. In also held concerns, not disputed by the Irish Government, that despite legislation in place there was a “not insubstantial shortfall of transient sites across the country”.
In relation to legal support it found that there is no legal aid for those threatened with eviction and that while Travellers may seek pro bono legal advice and representation from the Irish Traveller Movement Law Centre (since closed) this is not sufficient and that the remedy of judicial review in the absence of legal aid is also not sufficiently accessible.
To date, no actions have been put in place to redress the violations found for Travellers.
The Irish Traveller Movement welcomes the recommendation of the Council of Europe’s (COE) Committee of Ministers* last week (CM/Rec (2017)10) on improving access to justice for Roma and Travellers within member States. The Irish Traveller Movement currently supports the joint COE / European Commission pilot project, Justrom which creates access to Traveller and Roma women in Dublin operating under FLAC and the Tallaght Roma Integration Project. This new recommendation, the only other Recommendation on access to justice dates back to 1978, recognises the deficiencies and obstacles to Travellers and Roma accessing legal support. The primary area of law referred to the ITM Law Centre related to Traveller accommodation and at the time of its closure accounted for 49% of legal queries. In Ireland today there is no legal service available providing free dedicated legal advice and representation in matters related to Travellers and their accommodation.