On World Refugee Day Commission Calls for Greater Protection for Child Refugees and an Expansion of Family Reunification Policies.  

 “I’ve met so many who have lost so much. But they never lose their dreams for their children or their desire to better our world. They ask for little in return – only our support in their time of greatest need” — UN Secretary-General, António Guterres

On this, World Refugee Day, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“The Commission”) remembers the strength and courage of the millions of refugees and calls for better protection for children, and an expansion of family reunification policies.

The foundation of Irish law, the Irish Constitution, in article 3 – affirms that it is the firm will of the Nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities. We must continue to extend the spirit of this commitment to those fleeing persecution and newly arriving in Ireland.

The right to seek and to enjoy asylum from persecution is a fundamental human right, protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

Child Refugees

Today, over half of the world’s refugees are children, with 63,300 new unaccompanied asylum-seeking children arriving to Europe in 2016.

The Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking (GRETA) has pointed to significant gaps in the protection of unaccompanied children which persist in most Council of Europe Member States, with often tragic consequences.

Ireland can be a leader- drawing on the significant reforms introduced here – to ensure better protection and care, in particular for separated children

The Commission reiterates its call for Ireland under our new Government to assume a leadership role as a voice for the rights of child refugees, through the promotion at EU level of enhanced measures for the protection of migrant and refugee children.

Migrant and Refugee Family Reunification

The eligibility of family members for reunifcation with their loved ones remains a particular area of concern, likely to cause considerable hardship to refugee families in Ireland, many of whom have already suffered extreme privations.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has, since its establishment consistently raised concern over current Irish restrictions on family reunification which are set out within our International Protection system. The associated eligibility criteria of families for reunification with loved ones is restricted to certain family members – spouses, civil partners and children. Where the applicant is under 18 years of age, their parents, and siblings under 18 who are unmarried.

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) has acknowledged as a matter of policy that family reunification contributes towards the integration of people coming to Ireland.

The Commission restates its call to strengthen and expand its family reunification policies, to facilitate safe and legal pathways for family members of refugee communities here in Ireland. The Commission seeks to ensure full compliance with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which requires respect for private and family life.


For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095


Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Notes to editor:

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission was set up on 1 November 2014 as an independent public body 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.

In addition to promoting and protecting human rights and equality, the Commission also has a statutory role to: ‘encourage good practice in intercultural relations, to promote tolerance and acceptance of diversity in the State and respect for the freedom and dignity of each person.’

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Act 2014 sets out the functions of the Commission, i.e. to ensure that:

  • there is respect for, and protection of, everyone’s human rights;
  • there is respect for the dignity and worth of each person;
  • a person’s ability to achieve their potential is not limited by prejudice, discrimination, or neglect;
  • everyone has a fair and equal opportunity to take part in the economic, political, social or cultural life of the State; and
  • people respect each other, respect equality and human rights, and understand the value of diversity within society

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.