Human Rights and Equality Commission Appears before Supreme Court in Family Reunification Cases

Commission Appears as Amicus Curiae 

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) has today appeared before the Supreme Court as amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) in two cases involving family reunification for naturalised refugees.

The legal submissions presented by the Commission to the Supreme Court, published today, focused on the right to family unity as guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In the two test cases ‘MAM’ and ‘KN’, which were heard jointly, the Minister for Justice and Equality had refused applications for family reunification from individuals who had been granted refugee status under the Refugee Act 1996 and subsequently naturalised as Irish citizens. They were refused family reunification rights on that basis that by becoming Irish citizens they were no longer entitled to “refugee” family reunification.

The Minister refused ‘MAM’ family reunification with her husband, and ‘KN’ was denied family reunification with her adult daughter and two grand-daughters.

The Commission submitted that, in trying to strike a fair balance between ‘MAM’ and ‘KN’s interests on the one hand and the State’s on the other, the Court had to take into account that the refugees’ family separation had been involuntary, that they could not reunite with their families in their countries of origin, and that the only way that they could reunite with their families was if their families came to Ireland. Finally, the Commission submitted that the Minister’s refusal to allow ‘MAM’ and ‘KN’s families to come here breached their right to family unity.

In its judgment handed down in March 2019, the Court of Appeal found that the declarations of refugee status of the two people at the centre of the cases had automatically ended by operation of law once they acquired Irish citizenship and that, as such, they could not succeed in their applications for family reunification.

The Commission has consistently criticised the narrowing of access to family reunification for people granted international protection under changes to the legislation made in 2015. Most recently in December 2019, the Commission raised family reunification as an issue of concern as part of Ireland’s review of its obligations under the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

Laurence Bond, Director of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“Family reunification is essential in allowing people who have fled threat of persecution to resume living a normal life in the company of their loved ones.

The current legislation effectively forces people in vulnerable circumstances into choosing between their own protection and their close family members. The Commission is of the view naturalised refugees should not be excluded from the statutory family reunification regime.

“The Commission has recommended that the State clarify how it intends to address the deficiencies in its statutory framework for family reunification.”

ENDS/

 

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Editor’s Note

The Commission’s written submissions to the Supreme Court in the proceedings MAM v. The Minister for Justice and Equality and KN and Ors v. The Minister for Justice and Equality are available at the following link:

https://www.ihrec.ie/documents/mam-and-kn-v-minister-for-justice-and-equality/

The amicus curiae function of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission:

The Commission’s functions under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 include that of applying for liberty to appear as an amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) before the superior courts in proceedings that involve, or are concerned with, the human rights or equality rights of any person.

Section 10 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act sets out the functions of the Commission and Section 10(2)(e) provides that the IHREC shall have a function:

“to apply to the High Court or the Supreme Court for liberty to appear before the High Court or the Supreme Court, as the case may be, as amicus curiae in proceedings before that Court that involve or are concerned with the human rights or equality rights of any person and to appear as such an amicus curiae on foot of such liberty being granted (which liberty each of the said courts is hereby empowered to grant in its absolute discretion).”

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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