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HIGH COURT JUDGEMENT ON TEST FOR DEPENDENCY IN EU TREATY RIGHTS CASES

On 10th June 2020, Mr Justice Humphreys delivered his judgement in the case of Asif Rashid and Qasim Rashid v The Minister for Justice and Equality [2020] IEHC 333.

The first-named applicant is a British citizen, and his brother, the second-named applicant, is a citizen of Pakistan.

The central issue in the case was whether the Minister for Justice had erred in finding that no relationship of dependency had been established between the first and second-named applicants.

The Court ultimately upheld the decision of the Minister for Justice to refuse the second-named applicant’s application for residence based on his dependency on his EU Citizen brother.

Mr Justice Humphreys emphasised that the test for dependency in EU Treaty Rights cases is “definitively to be found in the CJEU jurisprudence, the most helpful summary of which is at paras. 19-28 of Case C-423/12 Reyes v. Migrationsverket”.

The Court found that the concept of dependency as defined in national case law, most notably in the case of VK v Minister for Justice and Law Reform [2019] IECA 232, does not change or add to the test for dependency established by existing CJEU jurisprudence.

In this regard the Court stated at paragraph 10:

“…the test has been phrased in different ways in different cases so the V.K. judgment should most certainly not be treated as a statute imposing another finer mesh of procedural and substantive legal complexity on top of the existing law. The really central point is the one [Baker J] makes at para. 81 of her judgment that “The test for dependence is one of EU law”. Therefore, any paraphrases in national jurisprudence are just that; and any language in any Irish case that is not found in CJEU jurisprudence is not creating or changing the CJEU jurisprudence. The latter remains the primary source of the meaning of dependency irrespective of any decisions at national level.”

The Court stated that the key issues in establishing dependency are the regularity of money transfers to the dependant applicant over a significant period, the necessity of those payments in enabling the dependant to support himself or herself in their country of origin, the financial and social conditions of the dependant, and the demonstration of a real situation of dependence.

Importantly, the Court emphasised that the payment of significant sums on a regular basis to the dependant in the country of origin, will not, by itself, constitute sufficient evidence of dependency.

This judgment of the High Court can be seen as a more conservative approach to the concept of dependency in EU Treaty Rights cases.

The full judgement can be read here.

If you or a family member have queries about EU Treaty Rights, please do not hesitate to contact the office.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT JUDGEMENT ON GOOD CHARACTER ASSESSMENTS IN NATURALISATION APPLICATIONS

The Court of Appeal have delivered another important judgement relating to the Minister’s assessement of “good character” for the purposes of applications for naturalisation in the case of MNN v Minister for Justice and Equality [2020] IECA 187.

Along with the recent judgement of Talla v Minister for Justice and Equality [2020] IECA 135 this judgement is an important ruling with respect to the Minister’s obligations when conducting assessments of “good character” and could see a shift in the way in which applications for naturalisation are to be considered by the Minister.

The applicant in this case applied for naturalisation in October 2013 and received a refusal of his application based on good character grounds.

The applicant declared in his application that he had two convictions for road traffic matters, which occurred in December 2012, namely failure to display road tax and failure to display insurance disc. The applicant had only become aware of these matters in 2013 as the fixed penalty notices and summons had been sent to his former address with his spouse, which he never received.

In early 2016, the Minister sought further information from the applicant in relation to an incident in which he was described in the report as a “witness”, where Section 12 of the Child Care Act had been invoked following a domestic altercation.

The applicant provided a thorough explanation for this matter and had instructed legal representation in September 2017 to make further representations to the Minister. The court described the applicant as providing a “frank and forthright explanation”.

Some four and half years after applying for naturalisation, the applicant’s application was refused in February 2018. The Court examined in detail the “submission” upon which the decision to refuse was based. The Court noted that it was unclear if the decision maker had access to all the relevant information and context, including the applicant’s detailed representations in relation to the incidents.

The Court highlighted that the Minister’s absolute discretion in determining applications for naturalisation does not “relieve the Minister of the obligation to operate within the rule of law”.

The Court goes on to outline a set of principles to be applied in assessing good character and notes that even though naturalisation is a privilege, applicants do not enjoy “inferior legal protection”. Good character is to be assessed “against reasonable standards of civic responsibility” and the connection between character and criminality can only be established when the Minister has all information including “context and mitigating factors”. The Minister must undertake a comprehensive assessment of the person and “all aspects of character”, and “Whether the appellant is a model citizen plays no part in what the Minister has to determine…”.

The Court set out the test for assessing applicants who may have a criminal offence in their past:

“Criminal convictions are relevant to the assessment of character, but they are not, in themselves, determinative thereof. Thus, it is not sufficient for the Minister to have regard only to the fact that an applicant for naturalisation has criminal convictions. What is required is a consideration of ‘all aspects of an applicant’s character’ in deciding whether he or she meets the relevant requirement for the purpose of s. 15 of the Act. The correct test is worth repeating. It is not whether an applicant has previous criminal convictions- it is wider in scope than that. An applicant may be assessed as a person of good character even if he has criminal convictions, perhaps, all the more, so if the convictions in question relate to strict liability offence. Such offences do not depend of personal moral culpability. As noted by Lang J. in Hiri, a person may still be of good character notwithstanding a criminal conviction and a person may not be of good character despite having a clean criminal record.”

The Court reiterates that the Minister is entitled to take into consideration “allegations” or matters that do not result in criminal proceedings, however they should be taken into assessment with “all relevant information”.

The Minster in this case was found to have considered the “alleged incidents” as more than alleged.

The Court emphasised that where the Minister relies on traffic offences to determine that the appellant is not of good character, he must have an understanding of the nature of the offences. Also, the understanding that leads the Minister to conclude that the applicant is not of good character must be stated in reasons that can be understood by the Applicant.

The Court was not satisfied that the Minister had before him all the relevant information to enable him to form a reasonable view as to whether the appellant was of good character. The Court emphasised that there was nothing on the face of the decision to suggest the entire file, including the applicant’s submissions regarding the incidents, were considered by the decision maker.

The decision was therefore held to be unlawful as it was not evident that the Minister had considered the applicant’s submissions in reaching the conclusion that the applicant was not of good character.

The decision making process in itself, was found by the Court to be in breach of natural and constitutional justice.

This is a very significant judgement from the Court of Appeal, because it raises questions regarding the legality of many decisions of the Minister in refusing naturalisation on good character grounds.

If you have been refused naturalisation on the grounds of good character please contact the office to discuss your case with us.

COURT OF APPEAL JUDGMENT ON MEMBERSHIP OF THE SAME HOUSEHOLD IN EU TREATY RIGHTS CASES

On the 19th December 2019, the Court of Appeal delivered its judgment in the case of Subhan and Ali v the Minister for Justice and Equality, in which Berkeley Solicitors acted for the Applicants.

The decision is significant for family members of EU citizens who have applications, or are considering making applications, for visas or residence cards based on the fact that they are members of the same household of an EU citizen family member under Directive 2004/38/EC on the Right of Citizens of the Union and Their Family Members to Move and Reside Freely Within the Territory of the Member States, (‘the Citizens Directive’).

The case concerned the refusal of an EU Fam residence card to the cousin of a British citizen, who had lived as the member of his household for many years in the United Kingdom prior to moving to Ireland.

The central issue before the Court of Appeal was the meaning of the term ‘household of the Union Citizen’  for the purposes of the Citizens’ Directive.

The Applicants argued that the household of the Union citizen consists of those persons who are family members and who reside in the same dwelling as the Union citizen. The Respondent argued that what is to be established is that the household concerned is that of the Union citizen, and that the centrality of the Union citizen in the family living arrangements is to be assessed.

The Applicants also put forward submissions regarding other language versions of the term ‘membership of the same household’ and found that there was no ‘head of the household’  test in those versions.

Ms Justice Baker ultimately upheld the decision of the High Court in finding that the criterion of ‘membership of the same household’ is not simply established where family members live under the same roof. Rather, members of the household of the Union citizen must be those persons who are some way central to the family life of the Union citizen.

The Court held:

“68. It may be more useful to consider the notion of household by reference to what it is not. Persons living under the same roof are not necessarily members of the same household and they may well be what we colloquially call housemates. An element of sharing that is necessary in a household may well be met in that the persons living together may agree on a distribution of household tasks and a proportionate contribution towards household expenses. But because, for the purpose of the Citizens Directive, one must focus on the living arrangements of the Union citizen, the members of the household of the Union citizen must, on the facts, be persons who are in some way central to his or her family life, that those family members are an integral part of the core family life of the Union citizen, and are envisaged to continue to be such for the foreseeable or reasonably foreseeable future. The defining characteristic is that the members of the group intend co-living arrangement to continue indefinitely, that the link has become the norm and is envisaged as ongoing and is part of the fabric of the personal life of each of them.

69. It is not a test of with whom the Union citizen would choose to live, but rather, with whom he or she expects to be permitted or facilitated to live in order that his or her family unit would continue in being, and the loss of whom in the family unit is a material factor that might impede the Union citizen choosing to or being able to exercise free movement rights. That second element, it seems to me, properly reflects the core principle intended to be protected by the Citizens Directive.

70. It may be dangerous to give an example, and I do so by way of illustration only. A family member who had resided in the same house as a Union citizen for many years before free movement rights were exercised might well have become a member of the family with whom there has developed a degree of emotional closeness such that the person is integral to the family life of the Union citizen. That person could be a member of a household because the living arrangements display connecting factors that might, in an individual case, be termed a “household”. If the rights of free movement of a Union citizen within the group are likely to be impaired by the fact of that living arrangement, whether for reasons of the moral duty owed to the other members of the group or otherwise, then the rights under the Citizens Directive fall for consideration.”

The Court found that the EU Citizen’s Free Movement rights where not impeded or restricted by refusing a right of residence to his family member in this case.

The full judgment has been published on the website of the courts and can be found here.

2,000 PEOPLE FROM OVER 100 COUNTRIES CONFERRED WITH IRISH CITIZENSHIP

Congratulations to the almost 2,000 people who were conferred with Irish citizenship at ceremonies in Co. Kerry on Monday 9th December 2019.

We especially wish to congratulate a number of our clients who have recently received positive naturalisation decisions.

The new citizens are originally from 103 different countries, with over a quarter originating from Poland and the United Kingdom.

The ceremonies took place at the Gleneagle INEC in Killarney and were presided over by retired High Court judge. The Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, and Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton, were also in attendance.

Such ceremonies had been placed on hold following the High Court ruling in the Jones case in July 2019 that anyone applying for citizenship could not spend a day outside Ireland in the 12 months before applying.

Last month the Court of Appeal overturned this ruling, calling it “unduly rigid” and “unworkable”.

Minister Stanton described the ceremony as a major life event for the candidates, stating:

“Ultimately it’s about building a society where we all live in harmony while, at the same time, respecting our cultural and religious differences… The possibilities open to you in Ireland today are almost limitless. You are now beginning a new journey and a new phase in your life by becoming Irish citizens.”

Approximately 127,000 people have received Irish citizenship in the last 18 years. If you or a family member wish to discuss applying for naturalisation, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

 

 

COURT OF APPEAL JUDGEMENT IN THE JONES CASE

The Court of Appeal have delivered their much-awaited judgement today in the case of Jones v Minister for Justice and Equality.

Applications for naturalisation have been on hold since a judgement from the High Court in July 2019. The High Court found that a person is not eligible for naturalisation as an Irish citizen, if he or she had left Ireland at all, even for one day, in the year prior to their application.

The High Court held that an absence of even one day breaks the applicant’s requirements to have one year “continuous residence” in the year immediately prior to the application.

In dealing with the High Court’s finding the Court of Appeal held that this was not a correct interpretation of Section 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 (as amended).

The Court of Appeal held as follows:

The High Court judge erred in law in interpretation of the term “continuous residence” provided by Section 15(1)(c ) of the 1956 Act. The construction is unworkable, overly literal, unduly rigid and gives rise to an absurdity. “Continuous residence” within the meaning of the sub-section does not require uninterrupted presence in the State throughout the entirety of the relevant year nor does it impose a complete prohibition on extra- territorial travel as the High Court suggests.”

The Court found that a person who took a trip to Newry for a number of hours would be ineligible to apply for naturalisation and found that this amounted to an “interpretive” absurdity.

The Court went on to consider the lawfulness of the Minister’s policy with regards to the impact of absences of over six weeks in the year prior to application.

The Court held that the legislative intention of Section 15(1)(c ) was to place a higher degree of importance on physical residence in the State in the year prior to application than in the previous years of reckonable residence. The Court found that there is a difference between “residence” /“ordinary residence” and “continuous residence”.

The Court did not agree with the appellants argument that a person is “continuously resident” in the year prior to application simply by virtue of living in Ireland and not being resident elsewhere. The court found that this would negate the substance of the requirement for “continuous residence” in the year prior to application.

The Court found that the Minister communicated in the decision under challenge in this case, “a clearly communicated practice or policy of allowing applicants six weeks absence from the state for work, or other reasons, and more in exceptional circumstances”.

The Court then went on to consider if this policy or practice was unduly harsh or if in the alternative it alleviated the protentional of a literal interpretation of Section 15(1)(c)’s requirement for “continuous residence”.

The Court held:

“The Minister has not adopted a rigid or inflexible policy in construing compliance with the first part of Section 15(1)(c). It is apparent that the objective of the Minister is to adopt a purposive, reasonable and pragmatic approach to the operation of that part of the sub-section”.

The Court further held that the operation of the minister’s “six-week policy” was for the benefit of applicants, in the interests of good administration and for consistency in decision making.

The Court found that the operation of the policy is not unlawful and does not create a “non-statutory barrier” to naturalisation. The Court found the Minister’s policy and practice was “sensible” and in line with the legislation. The Court found that the criteria of the Minister to establish “continuous residence” was reasonable and balanced and has regard to the societal norms regarding foreign travel.

On the basis of the above the Court held that the appellant did not have a year’s “continuous residence “in the State in the year immediately prior to application and was therefore the decision to refuse his application for naturalisation on this basis was not unlawful.

The Court’s judgement is to be welcomed as it has clarified what is required of an applicant to meet the “continuous residence requirement” in the year prior to application.

However, it is unfortunate for applicants, who were not in fact made aware of the Minister’s policy and practice in advance of making their applications.

To date there remains no published policy on the six-week rule or its operation.

We would submit that that policy should be freely accessible and easy to understand. There is no outline of what constitutes “exceptional circumstances”. There remains no guidance regarding absences from work, whether all are permitted or a certain portion.

It is arguable if a period of six weeks absence is in line with the reality for a lot of persons working in Ireland who are required to travel extensively for work. By way of comparison absences of 90 days are permitted by statute in the United Kingdom.

It remains to be seen if the Minister will continue to enact much needed legislation in this area.

 

 

 

SUPREME COURT TO HEAR APPEAL ON A DECISION CONCERNING THE DEFINITION OF “CHILD” IN FAMILY REUNIFICATION LAW

The Supreme Court is set to hear an appeal from the State over the definition of “child” as referred to in the International Protection Act 2015.

Section 56 the 2015 International Protection Act sets down the procedure for refugees and the holders of subsidiary protection to make an application for family reunification.

The State’s appeal specifically concerns Section 56.9(d) which provides as follows:

“(9) In this section… “member of a family” means in relation to the sponsor-

(d) a child of the sponsor who, on the date of the application under subsection 1 is under the age of 18 years and is not married.”

In 2018, Mr Justice Barrett ruled that non-biological or adopted children are eligible for family reunification. Delivered in May, the High Court decision involved ‘Mr X’ who held subsidiary protection in Ireland and subsequently applied for family reunification for a 14-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl to whom he was the sole guardian of.

After refusing to undertake a DNA test, as requested by the Minister, the application was refused in 2017. Mr X made a second application which was also refused and therefore brought judicial review proceedings with the aim of quashing the Minister’s refusal.

In his decision, Mr Justice Barrett acknowledged that “there is a “wide diversity” of familial structures and the 2015 Act does not exclude non-biological relationships. He further found that a “cookie cutter” definition of children which only recognised biological children, “would doubtless be easier for the State to police…but it is not what the Act provides”. Mr Justice Barrett’s decision acknowledged that it is not always a straightforward task in defining who is a child of someone. He therefore directed the Minister for reconsideration of the matter.

Chief Justice Frank Clarke, Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley and Ms Justice Mary Irvine have accepted a “leapfrog” appeal by the Minister and State against the High Court decision. This means that the State’s appeal will bypass the Court of Appeal and be directly heard by the Supreme Court.

The judges have emphasised that the definition of “child” in relation to the 2015 Act has the potential to relate to any case regarding non-biological minors who are claimed to be the child of person who has international protection.

The question as to which minors may benefit from family reunification is “a matter of general public importance”, they have underscored.

A hearing date for the appeal has not yet been fixed.

 

UPDATE ON VISA DELAYS – ATIF AND MAHMOOD CASE

UPDATE – A few months ago, we published a blog regarding the considerable delays in the processing of EUTR visas for the family members of EU citizens. In Atif and Mahmood, several applicants challenged the legality of such delays.

In Atif and Mahmood, the High Court in Ireland ruled in favour of the applicants indicating that any delay over six months in processing visa applications was too long. However, the Minister appealed this decision to the Court of Appeals in Ireland. In order to make a decision in this matter, the Court of Appeals referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for guidance.

Specifically, the Court of Appeals sought a preliminary ruling on how to interpret Article 5(2) of Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004. This article addresses the free movement rights of EU citizens and their families and requires the Member State “to issue a visa as quickly as possible to the spouse and family members of a Union citizen exercising free movement rights.”

The Court of Appeals set forth these questions to the ECJ for preliminary ruling:

  1. Does a Member State breach the requirement of Article 5(2) of Directive 2004/38/EC when the delays in processing an application for EUTR visas for the family members of EU citizens exceed 12 months?
  2. Does a Member State breach the requirement of Article 5(2) of Directive 2004/38/EC when delays in processing are due to ensuring that the application is not fraudulent or an abuse of rights, for instance, a marriage of convenience?
  3. Does a Member State breach the requirement of Article 5(2) of Directive 2004/38/EC when delays in processing are due to background and security checks on applicants coming from third world countries for security purposes?
  4. Does a Member State breach the requirement of Article 5(2) of Directive 2004/38/EC when delays in processing are due to a “a sudden and unanticipated surge in such applications coming from certain third countries which are thought to present real security concerns”?

To the above questions, the ECJ has made a decision regarding this matter.

“Since, however, all of the visa applications at issue in the main proceedings were the subject of negative decisions, which were contested by means of court actions which were not upheld, and since the referring court has noted that the Court’s answer can no longer benefit the applicants in the main proceedings, as is clear from paragraphs 18 and 20 of the present order, the dispute in the main proceedings has become devoid of purpose and, consequently, an answer to the questions referred appears to be no longer necessary.”

Since all of the applications in question had already been determined, the ECJ deferred from making a decision in this matter. Essentially, the ECJ determined that issuing a decision in this case would no longer be beneficial to the applicants and therefore there is no point in pursuing the matter further. Thus, the issue of how to interpret Article 5(2) of Directive 2004/38/EC in regard to visa delays remains unresolved.

Read more about visa delays in our full blog here.

Read the full decision in this matter  here.

FAMILY REUNIFICATION FOR NATURALIZED REFUGEES

On the 26th February 2018, Mr Justice Humphries delivered his judgement in the three test cases concerning the Minister of Justice and Equality’s recent decisions to refuse family reunification to naturalized refugees.

The cases were chosen to represent a larger number of cases currently in the High Court, all challenging the Minister of Justice and Equality’s recent decisions to refuse family reunification to naturalized refugees. These decisions were issued by the Minister contrast to the former policy to accept that naturalized refugees continued to have the rights to family reunification pursuant to the 1996 Refugee Act. An internal policy change implemented by the Minister, without notice to the applicants, resulted in the refusal of a large number of applications in circumstances where they would have previously been granted family reunification.

The Minister argued that a refugee ceases to be a refugee on acquiring Irish citizenship pursuant the definition of a refugee in national and international law, and a formal statutory provision for the revocation of their refugee status is not required.

The applicants argued that a formal withdrawal or cessation of refugee status is required by statutory provision, and while this is implemented in the International Protection Act 2015, it was not implemented under the Refugee Act 1996 as amended.

Mr Justice Humphries found in favour of the State, indicating that the cessation of refugee status is declaratory in nature, and refugees who become naturalized automatically cease to be a refugee, thus losing their refugee rights to family reunification.

The High Court decision is now the subject of an appeal to the Court of Appeal. We will post further updates on this case when there are any developments in the Court of Appeal.

Berkeley Solicitors