The High Court will rule tomorrow on a case against the Health Service Executive over the removal of four Leaving Cert students from schools in Dublin to schools in Galway.
The four girls, who arrived in Ireland from Africa two years ago as unaccompanied minors, were cared for in Dublin at first, but were moved to adult hostel accommodation in Galway when they reached the age of 18.
The High Court was told that the hostel accommodation was unsuitable for a student taking the Leaving Certificate.
They have begun a legal challenge against the HSE and are seeking a High Court order forcing the HSE to provide them with financial support to return to school in Dublin pending a full hearing of their case.
Senior Counsel Mel Christle told the court that the four girls had been moved against the advice of teachers and a guidance counsellor in both their former and present schools.
Mr Christle said they were on a particular path preparing for the Leaving Certificate next year and the move has been detrimental to their studies.
Two of the students were living in hostel accommodation in Galway and went without lunch on some days because they could not return to the hostel for lunch. They were unaware that a packed lunch could be provided.
Another of the students has to walk one hour to school from her hostel accommodation, the court was told.
Mr Christle said they had been moved to adult hostel accommodation and provided with an allowance of €19 per week.
They had been informed if they left the accommodation their allowance and their medical card would be withdrawn.
He told the court the four students would be regarded as vulnerable. He submitted that the HSE has an obligation under the Childcare Act to act in the best interests of the children.
However, he said the HSE's discretion to provide aftercare for children over the age of 18 was being fettered by Government policy, which was to move 'aged out minors' to adult accommodation once they turn 18.
Mr Christle said the HSE had not shown if any consideration had been given to the welfare of the students, but instead had merely stated Government policy and resource issues in its defence to the court proceedings.
He said a number of voluntary bodies, including Young People At Risk, and schools were all committed to a programme of support for the students, but there was a shortfall in the finance for the programme of €100 per week for each student, which the HSE was being asked to provide.
The group of voluntary bodies also plans to raise funds to keep the students in Dublin until they can sit the Leaving Cert next year.
However, Felix McEnroy for the HSE said the court was being asked to order the HSE to fund the private choices of four adults with public funds. He said there was no legal basis to do this.
He said the funding for the applicants 'shopping list' was simply not there in this time of cutbacks.
Mr McEnroy said there were clear facilities for those in receipt of HSE services to make a complaint and the plaintiffs in this case could have and should have complained under that process.
He said the move had been discussed well in advance with each student and a suggestion that their welfare had been disregarded was 'clearly incorrect'.
Mr McEnroy said the students were adults and not children. They were not in care he said, but nor had they been 'thrown to the lions of adult life'.
He said there were clear procedures in place for the transition of 'aged out' minors from the care system.
A full hearing of the case has been listed for next month. Mr Justice Barry White will rule on the preliminary injunction hearing tomorrow.