Statement by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission on Family Reunification – issued on World Refugee Day (June 20th)

On World Refugee Day the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“the Commission”) has restated the need for changes to Ireland’s International Protection Act 2015 to support the reunification of families of refugees in Ireland.

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. The removal of the right of international protection beneficiaries to apply for family reunification with extended family members under the International Protection Act 2015 and the introduction of a statutory time limit for applications constitutes retrogressive measures.

The Commission calls for family reunification law and policy to be strengthened and expanded, to facilitate safe and legal pathways for family members of refugee communities here in Ireland.

The Commission has recently been involved as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) in two test cases before the Court of Appeal on the right to family reunification for refugees who have been naturalised as Irish citizens. In these cases the Court of Appeal upheld the Minister for Justice and Equality’s refusal of one woman’s (‘MAM’) request for family reunification in respect of her husband, and another woman’s (‘KN’) request in respect of her adult daughter and two grand-daughters. The Commission is keeping a watching brief in anticipation of possible appeals to the Supreme Court on this important matter.

The Commission will also be raising the issue of Ireland’s stance and legislation on family reunification with the UN later this year as part of Ireland’s review of its obligations under the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

In reviewing the legal situation, more than three 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:

– Widen the definition of family members to recognise the diversity of family forms in compliance 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.

ENDS/

For further information, please contact:
Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,
01 8589601 / 087 0697095
bdawson@ihrec.ie
Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Notes to editor:

• ‘International protection’ includes those granted subsidiary protection.

• The Commission’s full policy statement “The right to family reunification for beneficiaries of international protection” published in June 2018 is available at the following link:
https://www.ihrec.ie/app/uploads/2018/06/The-right-to-family-reunification-for-beneficiaries-of-international-protection-June-2018.pdf
• The Commission’s written submissions to the Court of Appeal 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-v-minister-for-justice-and-equality/

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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