Significant Supreme Court Judgment in Family Reunification Cases Vindicates the Family Unit as Right of Refugees

Commission Exercised Amicus Curiae Role in Supreme Court Case

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (the “Commission”) has welcomed today’s significant Supreme Court judgment as “a positive and progressive ruling for refugee rights in Ireland” in two cases involving family reunification for naturalised refugees, delivered coincidentally just ahead of World Refugee Day (20 June).

In its judgment (MAM v. The Minister for Justice and Equality and KN and Ors v. The Minister for Justice and Equality), delivered by Mr Justice John MacMenamin, the Court rejected the Minister for Justice’s interpretation of the Refugee Act 1996, setting out that such an interpretation would lead to substantial legislative uncertainty when the purpose of the Act was to achieve clarity.

The ruling reversed previous judgments of the Court of Appeal and High Court, and in its conclusion recognised the European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence on the rights of refugees to family unity. The Court went on to note that its interpretation of the Refugee Act in this judgment is more in-keeping with the State duties towards the family as guaranteed under the Constitution.

The outcome will see KN and MAM able to seek family reunification through the formal process, and the Court also acknowledged that this judgment may also work to the benefit of 50 other applicants in similar circumstances.

Exercising its role as amicus curiae, the Commission’s legal submissions to the Supreme Court focused on the right to family unity as guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, submitting that acquiring nationality of the country of refuge, does not extinguish a right to family unity in that country.

The Commission argued that the Minister’s refusal to allow ‘MAM’ and ‘KN’s close family to come to Ireland breached rights under the Constitution (Article 40 and Article 41) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR Article 8) in relation to the rights of family and its members, and the State’s obligation to protect these rights.

In the two test cases ‘MAM’ and ‘KN’, which were heard jointly by the Supreme Court due to the importance of the legal issues at stake, the Minister for Justice and Equality had refused applications for family reunification from the two parties who had been granted refugee status under the Refugee Act 1996 and subsequently naturalised as Irish citizens. The Minister had refused ‘MAM’ family reunification with her husband, and ‘KN’ was denied family reunification with her adult daughter and two grand-daughters.

Dr. Frank Conaty, Acting Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“The Commission welcomes the recognition of the Strasbourg Court rulings in this judgment, clarifying that family unity is a right of refugees, and an essential element in enabling persons who have fled persecution to resume a normal life.

The Commission hopes that the Irish Government pays due regard to this judgment in future legislative arrangements. 

The Commission has consistently expressed serious concern over legislative changes introduced in 2015 which have narrowed access to family reunification for people granted international protection.”

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/app/uploads/2020/02/MAM-and-KN-v-MJE-2019111-and-113-Submissions-of-the-Amicus-Curiae-IHREC-filed-with-SCt-Office_181249_192841.pdf

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.

 

  • Facebook Share Icon
  • Twitter Share Icon