Tag Archive for: International Protection

RECENT HIGH COURT DECISION – REFUSAL OF REFUGEE FAMILY REUNIFICATION FOR NON-MARITAL PARTNER

RECENT HIGH COURT DECISION – REFUSAL OF REFUGEE FAMILY REUNIFICATION FOR NON-MARITAL PARTNER

Ms Justice Bolger of the High Court has recently delivered a judgement in the case of O v Minister for Justice [2022] IEHC 617.

 

The case concerned a Nigerian citizen who applied for refugee family reunification for his non-marital partner and three children in Nigeria pursuant to s.56 of the International Protection Act 2015. The applications for his children were granted, however the application for his partner was refused. The applicant sought to challenge this decision by way of judicial review proceedings in the High Court, seeking to quash the decision. The Court refused the application and did not grant the relief sought.

 

The application was refused on the basis that s.56(9) of the 2015 Act only permits unification with a marital partner, whilst the applicant’s partner was not married to him. Non-marital partners are covered by a separate administrative non-EEA Family Reunification policy.

 

The applicant claimed that s.56(9) is repugnant to the provisions of the Constitution and incompatible with EU law and the State’s obligations under the ECHR. He applicant also claimed that the administrative policy would not afford him reunification with his partner because he was unable to comply with its financial requirements. He argued that limiting statutory family reunification to a spouse will unfairly split non-marital families by leaving one parent isolated from the other and their children. The applicant argued that this limitation is contrary to Articles 40.1 and 40.3 of the Constitution on the right to equality and Article 41 family rights, as well as his rights under the ECHR to non-discrimination. The applicant also sought constitutional protection for his right to cohabit.

 

The Court rejected the argument that the applicant was being treated less favourably than a married refugee who has been separated from their spouse. The Court in making this determination considered the Minister’s submissions that the applicant was married to a third party and that this marriage had not been dissolved. The Court was satisfied that the applicant’s status is therefore that of a married person and he could not assert a constitutional right to equality of a non-married person to be treated equally to a married person.

 

The Court did not accept the assertion by the applicant that his non-marital relationship is akin to the marital relationship that is recognised under Irish law. The Court stated that insofar as the applicant contended that the relationship between him and his partner was akin to marriage, it could only be akin to a polygamous marriage, which is not recognised in Irish law.

 

In considering the applicant’s argument that there is a constitutional right to cohabit, the Court rejected that such a right existed. The Court further concluded that no EU rights are engaged in the application of s.56 of the 2015 Act and therefore the ECHR is not applicable.

 

The Court therefore found that it is not unlawful that unmarried partners are not included as family members under s.56 of the Act. The Minister has discretion in assessing the extent of family reunification to be afforded to refugees and is entitled to limit this. The Court found that applicants have a non-statutory procedure which they can use to apply for their unmarried partners, via a long-stay visa application, asking the Minister to disapply financial criteria if necessary. The Court found that the State had not breached the applicant’s constitutional rights by providing a different, and potentially more restrictive, non-statutory administrative policy for non-marital family reunification.

The full judgement can be found here:

https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/d322aab5-cda8-461b-b019-dc363a071c70/2022_IEHC_617.pdf/pdf#view=fitH

This blog article has been prepared on the basis of current immigration law and policy, which is subject to change. Please keep an eye on our blog and Facebook page where articles relating to updates and changes in immigration law and policy are regularly posted.

IRELAND SUSPENDS OPERATION OF EUROPEAN AGREEMENT ON THE ABOLITION OF VISAS FOR REFUGEES FOR 12 MONTHS

A Convention Travel Document refers to a travel document issued in accordance with Article 28 of the Geneva Convention and is a document issued to refugees.

Ireland is a signatory to the European Agreement on the Abolition of Visas for Refugees and as part of this arrangement the holder of a Convention Travel Document issued by another contracting State is not subject to Irish visa requirements for short stays of up to 90 days and can request entry to Ireland for up to 90 days as a non-visa required person.

If a person with a Convention Travel Document from a relevant country wishes to live or reside in Ireland on a long-term basis, they are required to apply for a visa in advance of travel to the State, the visa waiver applies only to short stays of up to 90 days.

This applies to holders of a Convention Travel Document issued by Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, or Switzerland.

As of Tuesday 19th July 2022, Ireland has decided to avail of the option to temporarily suspend the operation of this Agreement in Ireland for a period of 12 months.

Article 7 of the Agreement allows for signatories to the Agreement to temporarily suspend its operation for several reasons, including public order, security, or public health.

The Government announced yesterday that Ireland’s temporary suspension of the Agreement will be notified to the Council of Europe.

The Government will also be required to make an order to amend the Immigration Act 2004 (Visas) Order 2014 to put the requirement for entry visas for holders of refugee convention documents from the relevant countries on a statutory footing.

The Minister for Justice has stated that the reason for the move to suspend the operation of the Agreement in Ireland is due to the number of applications for international protection in Ireland by those who have been granted refugee status in another State.

The Minister’s notice states that from January 2021 to January 2022 the Minister was notified that 760 applicants for international protection had been granted international protection in another State, with 479 being granted protection in the Member States whose beneficiaries of international protection are visa exempt.

We would submit that 479 is a small number when the applications for international/ temporary protection are considered.

Between January 2019 to January 2022 the Minister has indicated she received 6,494 applications for international protection. As of 10th July 2022, 43,256 PPS numbers have been issued to Ukrainian nationals, indicating over 40,000 Ukrainian nationals have been granted temporary protection in Ireland.

Furthermore, persons who have been granted refugee status in another country may still have a valid claim to make for protection in Ireland. We recall the case of MAH v The Minister for Justice [2021] IEHC 302, judgement delivered on 30th April 2021 by Ms Justice Tara Burns. The Applicant was a Somali national who had studied medicine in Ukraine. Upon completion of her studies, she returned to Somalia where she worked as a junior doctor. During this time, the Applicant was subjected to threats from a fundamentalist group and so she fled to Ukraine by renewing her student visa. Upon the expiry of her student visa, she applied for asylum in Hungary and was granted refugee status. However, the applicant was homeless in Hungary, and was unable to obtain work. She was physically assaulted by a man and feared being sexually assaulted by others. She also experienced significant racist abuse. The Minister for Justice in Ireland issued a deportation order against the Applicant.

Ms Justice Burns assessed the Respondent’s consideration under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 as amended, and stated her findings as follows:

I am of the view that the Respondent incorrectly assessed the COI; failed to consider whether the presumption that her fundamental rights would be upheld in Hungary had been rebutted; and failed to properly consider the Applicant’s employment prospects pursuant to s. 3(6)(f) of the 1999 Act, the Respondent’s determination in respect of the Deportation Order is vitiated by these errors.

In granting the Applicant the reliefs sought, Ms Justice Burns summarised that:

‘the founding architects of the system of international protection which is in place in Europe today, would be of the view that we, as a people, have badly failed the Applicant in this case.’

A link to our blog on this judgement can be found here.

We would argue that it is unfair and unhelpful that the justification put forward by the Minister for Justice in suspending the operation of this agreement in Ireland is abuse of the system.