September 24, 2022

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A member of the Roma community and his daughter had items they purchased from a shop removed from them by its security guard and returned to the store under the belief they had stolen them, a new report states.

On Tuesday, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) published its 2021 annual report, which detailed some of the human rights cases that arose over the year.

One of the cases detailed how the IHREC granted legal assistance in relation to the man’s complaint against the shop for discrimination on the race ground.

The man and his young daughter were followed out of the shop by its security guard, who forcibly removed the items purchased by the client from him and returned back inside the shop, the IHREC said.

The items were only returned to the client after the cashier confirmed payment, it added.

The matter was resolved successfully through the Workplace Relations Commission’s mediation process in May 2021.

The case was one of a number the IHREC provided assistance on last year. At the beginning of 2021, the commission had 177 individual clients who had been granted legal assistance and whose cases were ongoing.

During 2021, 72 new individual applications for legal assistance were received, 29 applications were approved, of which 22 approvals were for legal advice only and seven for advice and representation, 32 applications were refused and two were withdrawn, with nine awaiting a decision at year-end.

Some of the other cases were the refusal of landlords to accept the housing assistance payment, local authorities who did not provide Traveller appropriate accommodation and alleged discrimination on disability grounds.

The human rights body also received 1,811 individual queries from members of the public in 2021, higher than the 1,732 it received in the previous year.

The top three public concerns relating to the Equal Status Acts, focused on discrimination on the grounds of disability (46 per cent), housing assistance (16 per cent) and race (13 per cent).

The top three public concerns under the Employment Equality Acts focused on discrimination in employment and job seeking on the grounds of disability (34 per cent), gender (25 per cent) and race grounds (14 per cent).

Bodily integrity

The top three public concerns in relation to human rights focused on health and bodily integrity (28 per cent), right to work and decent work (14 per cent), and asylum seekers, human trafficking, immigration and freedom of movement (14 per cent).

In terms of progress, the IHREC highlighted the provision of access to bank accounts and driving licences for people in the international protection system and the expansion of its role as national rapporteur on human trafficking

IHREC chief commissioner Sinéad Gibney said the continued presence of the Covid-19 crisis presented challenges, particularly for marginalised groups in society.

“We’ve continued to witness a steady stream of rights and equality issues, which threaten people’s individual dignity, open routes to discrimination, and stifle people’s potential,” she said.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, the problems it partially masked rise again. These include the well-established issues of homelessness and housing provision, of gender-based violence, structural issues of care, historic wrongs, the rights of people with disabilities, and how those coming here to seek asylum and refuge are treated.”

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