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A QUESTION OF THE LEGALITY OF THE USE OF DOMESTIC DEPORTATION LAW FOR FAMILY MEMBERS OF EU CITIZENS – CHENCHOOLIAH

Regulation 20 to Regulation 22 of the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2015 implement the Minister’s powers for removal in accordance with Council Directive 2004/38/EC.

The Regulations direct that the Minister may make a removal order against a Union citizen or their family member where the person is no longer entitled to be in the State in accordance with the 2015 Regulations.

However, in practice, the Minister has been invoking the domestic deportation procedure under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 as amended in the circumstances of family members who fall outside the remit of the 2015 Regulations.

The Minister’s approach to utilise the domestic deportation process for family members who have fallen outside the remit of the Regulations, has the effect that the proposed deportee looses certain rights and entitlements available under the 2015 Regulations. For example, a deportation order under domestic law is indefinite in duration while a removal order under the 2015 Regulations expires once the removal has been carried out.

The Minister’s actions have been challenged in a number of judicial review proceedings, the lead of which is the case of Nalini Chenchooliah v the Minister for Justice and Equality, Case C-94/18. In this case, a preliminary reference was made from the Irish High Court to the Court of Justice to seek clarification on the State’s entitlement to use domestic deportation legislation over the removal procedures envisaged by Directive 2004/38.

The questions referred were as follows:

Where the spouse of an EU citizen who has exercised free movement rights under Article 6 of Directive 2004/38/EC has been refused a right of residence under Article 7 on the basis that the EU citizen in question was not, or was no longer, exercising EU Treaty Rights in the host Member State concerned, and where it is proposed that the spouse should be expelled from that Member State, must that expulsion be pursuant to and in compliance with the provisions of the Directive, or does it fall within the competence of the national law of the Member State?

If the answer to the above question is that the expulsion must be made pursuant to the provisions of the Directive, must the expulsion be made pursuant to and in compliance with the requirements of Chapter VI of the Directive, and particularly Articles 27 and 28 thereof, or may the Member State, in such circumstances, rely on other provisions of the Directive, in particular Articles 14 and 15 thereof?

Ms Chenchooliah argued that as a person who at one time, on account of her marriage to an EU citizen, she previously had a temporary right of residence under Article 6 of Directive 2004/38, and therefore she continues to fall within the scope of that directive and can therefore be expelled from the territory of the host Member State only in compliance with the rules and safeguards provided for in that directive.
It is interesting to note the opinion of Advocate General Szpunar of the 21st May 2019, in in which the Advocate General took the same position as Ms Chenchooliah;

“Therefore, in the light of the foregoing considerations, I am of the view that, since the discontinuation or expiry of a right of residence forms part of the final stage of the exercise of freedom of movement, the expulsion from the territory of the host Member State of a third-country national spouse of a Union citizen continues to fall within the scope of Directive 2004/38, in particular Article 15 thereof, where that citizen has ceased to exercise his freedom of movement in the host Member State by returning to the Member State of which he is a national.”

The case was heard by the Court of Justice on the 15th January 2019 and judgement is currently awaited.

Should the Court of Justice concur with the Advocate General and find in favour of Ms Chenchooliah’s position, it would be appear that many deportation orders issued by the Minister in recent years will be unlawful and in breach of the EU treaty rights law.

REDUCTION IN SUCCESSFUL HUMANITARIAN APPLICATIONS

The past two years have seen a steep drop in the rate of successful humanitarian applications in the State. While 2015 saw a 60% rise in the granting of leave to remain over one year (Holland, 2015) the introduction of the International Protection Act, 2015 has seen the rate of humanitarian leave granted plummet to only 163 people in 2017, down from 465 in 2016 and 1,201 in 2015 (Power, 2018).

The Leave to Remain process is explained by the McMahon report (Department of Justice, 2015) as follows;

“The consideration by the Minister for Justice and Equality of whether or not to issue a deportation order in respect of a person who has been deemed not eligible for protection. If the decision is that a deportation order should not issue, leave to remain in the State is granted under Ministerial discretion following consideration of representations submitted, including in relation to the matters set out in section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999.”

Attention was brought to this steep drop in humanitarian leave being granted by TD Catherine Martin of the Green Party, representing Dublin Rathdown. In response to Ms Martin’s parliamentary question, Minister Charlie Flanagan’s answer was as follows (Dáil Debates,23rd January 2018);

“I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the information sought by the Deputy is included in the table.

The number for 2017 is influenced by the introduction of the new International Protection Act which required significant changes to procedures as well as the introduction of the transition provisions of the Act which required a significant number of cases to revert for processing to the International Protection Office.  All of this impacted on the number of cases brought to finality. With the new procedures bedded down the rate of processing is expected to increase significantly in 2018 and beyond.

Year    Leave to Remain

2016    465

2017    163

Total    628”

As stated by Minister Flanagan, it is presumed that the drop in successful humanitarian leave applications  is largely due to the introduction of the International Protection Act, 2015. The International Protection Act, 2015 was designed to streamline and improve the asylum process in the State, which was infamously overburdened and delayed. Minister Flanagan in the above statement, submits that the drop in successful humanitarian applications is due to moving all cases into the simplified asylum process introduced by the Act, and not due to an increased rate of rejection for applicants.

It remains to be seen whether this drop in applications is in fact due to the transitional issues associated with the State’s reform of the asylum and leave to remain process, or if it instead indicative of a continuing issues with delay in spite of the new Act.

Dáil Debates, Asylum Applications Data, 250, 23rd January 2018, [https://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2018-01-23a.505&s=%22leave+to+remain%22#g506.q] [Accessed 6 Feb.2018].

Department of Justice (2015). Working Group to Report to Government Working Group on the Protection Process on Improvements to the Protection Process, including Direct Provision and Supports to Asylum Seekers. [online] Dublin: Department of Justice. Available at: http://justice.ie/en/JELR/Report%20to%20Government%20on%20Improvements%20to%20the%20Protection%20Process,%20including%20Direct%20Provision%20and%20Supports%20to%20Asylum%20Seekers.pdf/Files/Report%20to%20Government%20on%20Improvements%20to%20the%20Protection%20Process,%20including%20Direct%20Provision%20and%20Supports%20to%20Asylum%20Seekers.pdf [Accessed 6 Feb. 2018].

Holland, K. (2015). Number of asylum seekers given leave to stay up by 60%. Irish Times. [online] Available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/number-of-asylum-seekers-given-leave-to-stay-up-by-60-1.2437131 [Accessed 6 Feb. 2018].

Power, J. (2018). Sharp fall in asylum-seekers granted humanitarian reprieve. Irish Times. [online] Available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/sharp-fall-in-asylum-seekers-granted-humanitarian-reprieve-1.3379239?mode=amp [Accessed 6 Feb. 2018].