Human Rights and Equality Commission Critical of ‘Retrogressive Measures’ on Family Reunification for Refugees - IHREC - Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

Human Rights and Equality Commission Critical of ‘Retrogressive Measures’ on Family Reunification for Refugees

Policy Statement Sets Out Legal and Policy Changes Required

On World Refugee Day on the 20th of June, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“the Commission”) has criticised the narrowing of access to family reunification for people granted international protection. The Commission has described the 2015 legislative changes as “retrogressive” and is seeking change.

The Commission has seen a significant increase in the number of people taking court cases, who are seeking a declaration of incompatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to legal issues impacting asylum seekers and refugees, including family reunification.  So far this year, the Commission has been notified of 13 such cases relating to family reunification.

The Commission has communicated its views to Government and the Oireachtas recommending changes to law and policy. The Commission has reiterated the need to facilitate safe and legal pathways to Ireland for family members of refugees.

In reviewing the legal situation, more than two years on from the enactment of the International Protection legislation in December 2015, the Commission recommends that:

The International Protection Act 2015 should be amended to:

  • Define family members in a way which complies with International human rights obligations.
  • Allow those who have established long-term partnerships or customary marriages to apply for family reunification, and ensure spouses and civil partners are eligible where the marriage or civil partnership subsisted on the date of the application.
  • Repeal or amend the 12-month limit for applications for family reunification
  • Clarify in law the rights of programme refugees to reunification, as well as the rights of refugees who acquire Irish citizenship.

The Department of Justice and Equality should update its Policy Document on Non-EEA Family Reunification:

  • To ensure that the description of family dependency aligns with international standards.
  • To ensure applicants have an opportunity to present information on family relationships at interview, and the types of evidence that may be offered to demonstrate family links.

Finally, the Commission recommends that an independent appeals process should be introduced or added to protect the right to an effective remedy.

Speaking today, Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“The right to family life has long been recognised in international law, European Law and within Ireland’s Constitution.  The right to family reunification flows from the right to family life.

“Once people are safe here in Ireland, their first concern is making sure their loved ones are also safe.

“The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is aware of an increasing number of legal cases being taken where people are contending that Ireland’s laws governing international protection are not compatible with human rights law.

“While there has been some welcome recent initiatives in the area of family reunification, such as the recent Humanitarian Admission Programme from the Department of Justice and Equality, which will allow a limited number of people from ten countries to apply for family reunification, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is seeking, on World Refugee Day, a more definitive approach to the law, which would afford  refugees to Ireland the certainty that they can seek to reunite with family members.”


For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Notes to editor:

‘International protection’ includes those granted subsidiary protection.

The Commission policy paper “The right to family reunification for beneficiaries of international protection” is available at the following link:

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

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