ERRC v Ireland, Collective Complaint 100/2013

16 April 2013

Facts

European Roma Rights Centre v. Ireland concerns Ireland’s compliance with the European Social Charter regarding the accommodation of Travellers. In 1995, a government-appointed Task Force on the Travelling Community reported that there was inadequate accommodation for 1,342 Traveller households in Ireland. Recognising the importance of available and adequate accommodation to all aspects of Traveller life, the Task Force recommended the provision of 3,100 units of additional Traveller accommodation by the year 2000. Following this recommendation, the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act of 1998, required every local housing authority, by 2004, to adopt a five-year Traveller Accommodation Programme providing for transient sites. 

As of 2011, only four local authorities had transient sites, all of which operated as emergency accommodation. Similarly, only 54 of 1,000 transient sites requested by the 1995 Task Force had been built. From 2000 to 2009, there was a 56% rise in the number of Traveller families living in Standard Local Authority Housing (private housing and rented accommodation). Furthermore, owing to the steadily decreasing provision of safe halting sites throughout Ireland, there were 361 Traveller families living in unauthorised and unfit halting sites at the time of the complaint. 

ERRC’s Role

Working in close cooperation with the Irish Traveller Movement, who provided the factual information from the ground, and Aoife Nolan and Malcolm Langford, both then of the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, who played a key role in drafting the original complaint, the European Roma Rights Centre filed a collective complaint against Ireland under the Revised European Social Charter. The ERRC claimed that the Government of Ireland had not ensured the satisfactory application of Article 16 and Article 30 of the Revised European Social Charter (RESC or Charter) with respect to accommodation for Travellers in Ireland. In addition, many of the actions and omissions of the Government had violated the rights of child Travellers to social, legal, and economic protection (Article 17). We argued that the alleged violations should be read independently, as well as in conjunction with Article E (the Charter’s non-discrimination clause).

The Committee’s Findings

The European Committee of Social Rights published its decision on the merits on 16 May 2016.

Article 16: The right of the family to social, legal and economic protection

The ERRC alleged that Ireland violated the Charter by failing to provide safe and adequate accommodation to Travellers. After assessing the Government’s shortfalls, the Committee found that there were violations of Article 16 on these grounds but no violation of Article E (the non-discrimination clause) read in conjunction with Article 16. The Committee found that there was no violation of the Charter in relation to the adequacy of legislation concerning accommodation.

The ERRC also alleged, with regard to evictions, that Ireland violated the Charter through its practice as well as through the adoption of an inadequate legislative framework. The Committee unanimously concluded that there were violations of Article 16 of the Charter on the grounds that the Criminal Justice Act 1994 and the Housing Act 1992 provide inadequate safeguards for Travellers threatened with eviction. However, the Committee also unanimously found that there were no violations of Article E (the non-discrimination clause) read in conjunction with Article 16 on these grounds. The Committee unanimously found that there were no violations of Article 16 of the Charter or of Article E read in conjunction with Article 16 regarding the Roads Act of 1993, the Planning and Development Act 2000, the Local Government (Sanitary Service) Act 1948 or the Public Health Act 1978. Regarding the practice of evictions, the Committee concluded that there was a violation of Article 16 of the Charter on the grounds that evictions were carried out in practice without the necessary safeguards.

Article 30: The right to protection against poverty and social exclusion

The ERRC alleged that Ireland violated Article 30 by failing to protect Travellers from poverty and social exclusion. After reviewing the Government’s coordinated approach to provide accessible housing to Travellers, the Committee found that there was no violation of Article 30 or of Article E in conjunction with Article 30 on this ground.

Article 17: The rights of children to social, legal and economic protection

The ERRC alleged that the Government violated Article 17 by denying Traveller children the right to social, legal and economic protection, particularly regarding schooling. In light of the absence of specific allegations regarding protection of Traveller children, the Committee found that, in this case, there was no violation of Article 17 or of Article E read in conjunction with Article 17.

The ERRC’s original complaint can be found here.

The ERRC’s response to the Government’s Observations can be found here.

The Committee’s decision on the admissibility of the collective complaint can be found here.

The Committee’s decision on the merits can be found here.

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