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SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT ON FAMILY REUNIFICATION FOR NATURALISED REFUGEES: M.A.M. (SOMALIA) AND K.N. (UZBEKISTAN)

Berkeley Solicitors are delighted to congratulate our client who won her appeal in the Supreme Court today in the joint test cases of – M.A.M. (Somalia) v The Minister for Justice and Equality and K.N. (Uzbekistan) and Others v The Minister for Justice. The judgement of Mr Justice McMenamin was a unanimous judgement of the Supreme Court in favour of the appellants, and was delivered on the 19th June 2020.

The judgement is very significant as it affects not just the individual families taking the appeal, but approximately fifty other applicant families who have cases pending in the High Court holding list awaiting the outcome of this Supreme Court appeal.

The case arose from a challenge to the decision of the Minister for Justice to refuse family reunification to our client’s family members under The Refugee Act of 1996 (as amended). The sole reason for the Minister’s decision was the fact that our client had become an Irish citizen by naturalisation prior to her family reunification application, and the Minister held she was not therefore entitled to the family reunification rights as a refugee.

During the course of the proceedings, the Minister accepted that the Department of Justice had previously interpreted Section 18 of the 1996 Refugee Act to permit naturalised refugees to apply for family reunification for their family members, and this favourable scheme was in operation between 2010 and October 2017. The Minister also accepted that in October 2017, following new legal advices, the Minister commenced a new procedure to preclude naturalised refugees from applying for family reunification. This change in policy resulted in many naturalised refugees being refused family reunification during the period of 2017 and 2018, prior to the commencement of the family reunification provisions of the International Protection Act 2015.

The Minister argued that in order for a person to have rights to family reunification under Section 18 of the 1996 Act, not only must they hold a declaration confirming their refugee status, but they must also be a refugee in line with the definition of a refugee in Section 2 of the Act. As this definition requires a person to be outside their “country of nationality” to be a refugee, the Minister’s argument was that a refugee who becomes naturalised is no longer deemed to be a refugee as they are not outside their country of nationality, when that country becomes Ireland.

The Supreme Court disregarded this argument, holding that there was nothing to suggest in the Act that the appellants’ “country of nationality” had altered from Somalia and Uzbekistan to Ireland, as their well-founded fear of persecution remained  in those countries and not Ireland.

The Supreme Court carried out a detailed statutory interpretation exercise in respect of the 1996 Refugee Act, and highlighted the absurdities that would follow if a refugee with a declaration of refugee status would also have to be “deemed” to be a refugee in order to avail of the important rights of family reunification.

The court stated:

“The consequence of the interpretation urged by the Minister would be to create substantial legislative uncertainty when the purpose of the 1996 Act was to achieve clarity. The case advanced would run counter to the legislative aim of the Oireachtas, which was, by a carefully devised procedure defined in the Act, to identify one definitive “mark” of recognition to persons who were entitled to refugee status in this State, which, in turn, would grant them benefits and entitlements.”

In conclusion, the Supreme Court held as follows:

“This judgement concludes that the fact that the appellants became citizens did not deprive them of the right to apply for family reunification under s.18 of the 1996 Act.”

This is a very welcome decision from the Supreme Court, because it gives certainty to the definition of a refugee and the interpretation of the family reunification provisions in the 1996 Refugee Act.

In effect it means that all the decisions issued by the Minister during the period of 2017 and 2018 to refuse applications for family reunification under the 1996 Act because the sponsors were refugees who had naturalised as Irish citizens, were unlawful.

It also means that the decisions granting family reunification to naturalised refugees during the 2010 to 2017 period are lawful, bringing legal certainty to the status of countless families now settled in Ireland.

We would expect that Minister will now agree to withdraw these previous unlawful decisions refusing family reunification, and reconsider and re determine the applications in line with the Supreme Court’s judgement.

We welcome the clarity that this judgement brings and look forward to working with our clients to have the unlawful family reunification decisions withdrawn and re determined.

The full judgement can be read here.

We are happy to advise further to anyone believes they are affected by this judgement.

Berkeley Solicitors

UK GOVERNMENT PUBLISHES DRAFT IMMIGRATION BILL GUARANTEEING RIGHT OF IRISH CITIZENS TO LIVE AND WORK IN THE UK POST BREXIT

Last month, the UK Government published the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, which provides the legislative basis for ending EU free movement arrangements in the UK once the Brexit transition period has expired.

The Bill aims to retain the Common Travel Area rights of Irish citizens to live and work in the UK without restrictions. Section 2 of the Bill provides that “an Irish citizen does not require leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom”. Exceptions to this include the possibility to deport Irish citizens for serious criminal offences.

The British Immigration Minister Kevin Foster has stated that the Bill “provides certainty and clarity for Irish citizens on their rights to enter and live in the UK, reflecting the reciprocal arrangements for British citizens in Ireland.”

In practice, the Bill will ensure that there is no change to free movement between Ireland and the UK for Irish citizens. This follows repeated assurances from both the Irish and UK governments that the Common Travel Area, which has been in place since 1922, will remain valid post-Brexit.

However, in its current form, the Bill does not provide Irish citizens with any right to have family members reside with them, unlike EU free movement law.

Other EU citizens may require visas to enter and reside in the UK from as early as 2021. The UK Home Office has announced its intention to introduce a points-based immigration system for both EU and non-EU citizens.

At present, these proposals are at a very early stage and are subject to change as the Bill moves through the legislative process. Members of Parliament are scheduled to consider the Bill for a second reading on Tuesday 21 April 2020.

The full text of the Bill 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.

 

 

UPDATE ON CITIZENSHIP APPLICATIONS FOLLOWING THE JONES RULING

Further to our recent blog on the High Court’s findings in the case of Jones v The Minister for Justice and Equality, which can be read in full here, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of the Department of Justice have published a notice addressing the judgment and the concerns it has raised.

The Court had found in Jones that the law governing eligibility for naturalization as an Irish citizen requires ‘continuous residence’ in the year prior to application and that ‘continuous residence’ is defined as per the generally accepted understanding and dictionary definition of ‘continuous’, with the implication, therefore, that even one day’s absence from Ireland in the year prior to application will break the continuous residence requirement and render a person ineligible to apply for naturalization.

This judgment has understandably caused deep concern and worry for many and in response the INIS has now issued a statement providing the following:

“We are aware that the judgment in this case has given cause for concern and may have been upsetting for many people who are in the citizenship process. We want to assure you that we are taking all appropriate steps to remedy the situation as quickly as possible. The best interests of applicants and future applicants are foremost in our considerations.”

For those planning on submitting an application or who already have an application pending, the Department goes on to confirm that it is continuing to receive and process applications as usual and it emphasises that that they are not advising current applicants or future applicants to cancel any current or future travel plans in light of the judgment.

The Department advises that anyone who is planning on applying for naturalization continue preparing their application, collecting the necessary documentation and submit this together with a complete application form, stating that once they have formulated a solution to address the implications of the ruling they will be in touch with applicants should any further information be required.

The Department confirm that preparations are still going ahead as planned for the upcoming Citizenship Ceremony in September.

Importantly, the Department also state that they “do not believe that this ruling has consequences for anyone who has already obtained citizenship under the Act”. This will hopefully come as a reassurance to many who are concerned that their citizenship may be in question following this judgment.

Finally, the Department confirms that they are working to find a solution to address the ruling as a matter of urgent priority and that they will post on their website as updates occur.

We will be posting about any further developments from the Department as they arise and should you have concerns about your case in the meantime please do not hesitate to contact us.

The INIS statement can be read in full here.

SUPREME COURT DELIVER JUDGEMENT IN P -v- MINISTER FOR JUSTICE AND EQUALITY [2019] IESC 47

An important judgement has been delivered by the Supreme Court in the case of P -v- Minister for Justice and Equality [2019] IESC 47.

The Courts highlighted that this is a difficult and novel area of law. O’Donnell J in his judgement noted: “this is a very difficult area, with competing considerations, an absence of legislative structure, and little by way of guidance from the decided cases.” 

The applicant in his proceedings contended that the reasons provided to him in the refusal of his application for naturalisation remained insufficient and that it ought to have been possible for the Minister to offer to provide “the gist” of the information relied upon.

The applicant contended that if necessary, a special advocate procedure ought to have been adopted.

There is a special advocate procedure in place in other common law countries, most notably the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand, which are now the subject of detailed procedures providing for the appointment of a special advocate, and what are described as closed material hearings.

Two judgements were issued in this matter, by Mr Justice Clarke C.J. and Mr Justice O’Donnell which reach the same conclusion on slightly different legal bases.

Clarke C.J.’s judgement found that it is possible to put in place an “enhanced process” by which an “independent assessment” could be made, “as to whether any version of the information could be provided in a way which would not affect State interests to the extent that disclosure should not be required at all”.

Clarke C.J. also noted that such a process of advice from an independent person would also enhance confidence in any decision made.
O’Donnell J’s discusses “special advocate procedures” stating:

“During these procedures decision-makers, and sometimes courts will consider material and hear evidence which is not provided to the individual or the advocate of his or her choice, but where the individual is represented by a special advocate with security clearance who cannot, however, communicate the substance of the information disclosed to the individual or seek instructions upon it.”

There is currently no provision for such procedures in Ireland.

In his judgment O’Donnell J found that the case of Mallak v. Minister for Justice [2012] IESC 59, [2012] 3 I.R. 297, a case which strongly affirmed the “duty to give reasons” did not govern this particular case.

O Donnell J held that the issue in this particular case was:

“(i) what by way of fair procedures is required where it is said that the basis for the refusal of citizenship is contained in information which cannot be disclosed by way of reasons for the decision, and
(ii) if it is possible to justify the refusal to give reasons, what is required by way of fair procedures to constitute such justification, so that a decision which did not provide reasons, would nevertheless be valid and not liable to be quashed?”

O’ Donnell J found that if national security concerns are properly raised, it cannot be the case that merely by seeking a decision, an interested party can demand access to information, the confidentiality of which is deemed essential to national security. The judge also highlighted, however that it must be recognised that fundamental issues are involved in this case- that a person can be the subject of an adverse decision on a matter of significance to them based upon materials not disclosed to them, and where the reasons for that decision are similarly withheld from them.

The judge referred to a case of the UK courts, R. (Haralambous) v. St. Alban’s Crown Court [2018] UKSC 1, [2018] A.C. 236, in that case, the restrictions on providing the gist of material occurred after there had been a limited closed materials procedure in which the information concerned was subject to some scrutiny independent of the state.

We welcome the Supreme Court’s determination in this case and hope that an “enhanced process” or “special advocate procedure” is introduced by the Minister as soon as possible. An application for citizenship is a hugely important matter for an applicant, who has made their home in Ireland. A fair and balanced system with an element of independence is to be welcomed and will assist both the applicant and the Minister to deal with these particular matters.

The full judgement of O’Donnell J. can be read here and the full judgement of Clarke C.J. can be read here.

IMPORTANT UPDATE ON BREXIT AND THE RIGHTS OF NON-EU/EEA FAMILY MEMBERS OF BRITISH CITIZENS

In the face of the uncertainty and worry facing many in light of the ongoing Brexit deliberations, the Department of Justice has, on the 29th of March 2019, published a communication aimed at non-EU/EEA nationals who are residing in the State as the family member of a British citizen, in order to provide an update on the approach they intend to take in the event that the UK leaves the EU in a so called ‘no-deal’ scenario.

The communication defines no-deal as referring to circumstances where there is no further extension of the negotiating period and the UK does not ratify the Withdrawal Agreement before the 12th April 2019, in which case it states there will be no transition period and EU law will cease to apply to and in the UK as of 11pm (midnight CET) on that day.

Alternatively, if a deal is reached, according to the Department’s communication, the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement on Citizens Rights will apply and EU law will only cease to apply in and to the UK following the transition period of 21 months, up until the 1st of January 2021.

The information note addresses two groups of persons in contemplation of a no-deal Brexit; those with an EU treaty rights application submitted and pending and those holding a valid Stamp 4 EUFam residence card on the 12th of April 2019.

With respect to those who have an application that is still being processed, the information note provides no further information other than to state that such persons are not required to take any action at this time.

For those who are currently holding a valid Stamp 4 EUFam residence card, the information note seeks to reassure that you do not need to worry about losing your right to residence in the State in the case of a no-deal scenario.

It states that, although in a no-deal scenario EU law, in particular the provisions of the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2015, will no longer apply to you, the Irish government is currently putting in place arrangements to allow a transfer under domestic immigration provisions, which will provide for your continued residence in the State.

It is further stated that the aim of the arrangements being put in place is that you will retain, as far as possible, similar rights to those you have held as the holder of a Stamp 4 EU Fam residence card, including with regard to access to the labour market.

The Department states that they are currently in the process of putting in place a communication strategy that, in the case of a no-deal scenario, will include directly contacting individuals who will be affected by the above.

Further, addressing the matter of UK nationals coming to the State after the 12th of April 2019, if no deal has been made and there is no extension of the negotiating time, the Department provides no information other than to state that they will be issuing further updates on their website in this regard.

The note is also silent in relation to family members of British/UK citizens who have applications for entry visas to the State pending with Irish Embassies/ Visa Offices abroad and the INIS visa office, Dublin. It is unclear as to what the status of such applications will be in the event of a no deal scenario.

If you think you or your family members may be affected by Brexit it is advisable to regularly check the Department’s website, which they state will be updated as developments continue. Berkeley Solicitors will also update the Immigration Blog as further information becomes available.

The full text of the information note can be found here. (http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/information-note-on-non-eea-family-member-of-uk-citizens-seeking-eu-treaty-rights )

NEW PRACTICE DIRECTION FOR ASYLUM AND IMMIGRATION CASES IN THE HIGH COURT

A new practice direction on asylum and immigration cases issued by President of the High Court Mr Justice Peter Kelly on the 17th December 2018 has created significant changes in the Asylum and Immigration court, and imposed significant new obligations on both solicitors and applicants.

Practice Direction 81 came into force on the 1st January 2019 and applies only to cases on the Asylum and Immigration list. The obligations imposed by High Court Practice Direction 81 are significant and wide-ranging.

Following the issuance of this practice direction, there is a requirement on all applicants to disclose a substantial amount of information and documentation to the Court regarding their case, including details of all previous immigration applications made by any applicant or their family member in Ireland or any other country and details of any previous or current civil or criminal proceedings. This is the case even when the applicant’s family members are not involved in the Judicial Review proceedings.

 

Under the Practice Direction all adult applicants are required to submit a further affidavit providing the information as requested in the Practice Direction. There is also a requirement that the applicant’s solicitor swear an affidavit in relation to the proceedings.

 

The Practice Direction requires the following to have been completed in respect of every new asylum and immigration case initiated after the 1st January 2019.

  • Provide the Court with all relevant material facts by way of a sworn affidavit
  • Provide a full account of the applicant and relevant family member’s immigration history, to include an account of any applications made to the Department of Justice or any other immigration or protection authority both in Ireland or in any other country – this would include previous visa or immigration applications to any State.
  • Exhibit the full immigration file for all immigration/protection applications of every applicant made both in Ireland and other countries. If such documents are not exhibited, a full explanation as to why they have not been exhibited and provide an outline of what attempts have been made to acquire the documents
  • Draw the Court’s attention to any “significant matter of fact adverse to the applicant’s case”
  • Swear that all previous representations made to the Department of Justice or any other immigration authority have been disclosed, or if not, to explain why not
  • Swear that all previous statements or representations made to the Department of Justice or any other immigration authority for the applicant and family members is the truth in every respect, or if not, particularising the extent to which any such statements or representations are untrue;
  • Swear that all statements in the Statement of Grounds are true in every respect, or if not, particularising the extent to which they are not true;
  • Swear that the applicant is aware that it is an offence of perjury to make a statement in any affidavit that is false or misleading in any material respect and that he or she knows to be false or misleading.
  • Identify the applicant’s religion and confirming that the grounding affidavit has been sworn in a specified manner recognised by that religion
  • Swear that the contents and implications of the averments of verification, all statements in the statement of grounds and the details of all previous claims and representations made by or on behalf of the applicant or any member of his or her family, or any solicitor on behalf of any of them, have been fully explained to the applicant by his or her solicitor, and that the applicant fully understands same
  • Specify the language that the applicant understands and confirming that the applicant fully understands the affidavit and its exhibits in the language in which it is sworn.
  • Exhibit any document in a language other than English with a translated document by official translation company
  • Disclose any criminal offences/convictions/proceedings in Ireland or any other country
  • Disclose if the applicant has issued any legal proceedings in any immigration/criminal/civil matter in Ireland or any other country
  • Swear and file a further affidavit in respect of any new material relevant to the court subsequent to the grounding affidavit
  • Attend the substantive hearing of the case in person if ordinarily resident in the State, and if required to orally confirm the averments of verification set out in the affidavits.
  • Applicants may be required to complete and submit to the court checklists of the requirements in the Practice Direction as may be required by the Judge from time to time

 

Berkeley Solicitors has recently contacted all clients who have current Judicial Review cases active in our office to explain the new requirements imposed by the practice direction. If there are any further developments on the new Practice Direction there will be a further update on the Immigration Blog and clients will be contacted.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS ON CITIZENSHIP FOR CHILDREN BORN IN IRELAND

Until 2004, citizenship in Ireland was acquired purely by being born in Ireland, or “jus soli”. In 2004 a referendum was held an passed which meant that citizenship could only acquired for a child born in Ireland if one or more if their parents was a citizen of Ireland or had lawful residence for a certain period, otherwise known as “jus sanguinis”. This referendum came in the wake of the case L.O. v Minister for Justice, in which it was held that the Minister for Justice had the power to deport the parents of Irish citizen children where there are “grave and substantial reasons associated with the common good to do so”.

Recent high profile cases of children who have been born in Ireland, or who have lived most of their lives in Ireland, being issued with deportation orders have raised new concerns over the result of the 2004 referendum. The case of Eric Zhi Ying Mei Xue gave rise to massive outcry within both his community and around the country- Eric had been born in Ireland to a Chinese national mother, and a deportation order was issued proposing to return him to a country where he had never lived. Similarly, in the case of P.O. v Minister for Justice, a deportation was issued against a nine year old boy who had been born in Ireland, who tragically passed away as a result of sickle cell anaemia during the appeal of his case to the Supreme Court.

These cases likely represent a small fraction of the children born in Ireland who have been issued with deportation orders since the 2004 amendment and subsequent legislation. Department of Justice figures show that since 2013 approximately 134 children under the age of 18 have been deported from Ireland. At present within the department there are 285 minors who have live deportation orders against them.  From these figures it is unclear how many of these children were born in Ireland, or who have spent most of their lives in Ireland.

As a result of cases like the boy in PO and Eric Zhi Ying Mei, there has been considerable public disagreement with the current regime. A recent Irish Times opinion poll has indicated that up to 71% of respondents to their survey are in favour of birth right citizenship. This is a stark change from the referendum result in 2004, in which 79% of voters agreed with the removal of birth right citizenship. Campaigns for the removal of the amendment or the introduction of amending legislation have been proposed, with the Labour party putting forward a bill which proposed to provide citizenship rights to children of non-national parents if they are born in Ireland and have lived in the State for more than three years. The bill was decried as “bad law” by the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, but it appears that this bill is reflective of a changed view by the Irish public in birth right citizenship. The bill was rejected by government, but with the shifting public opinion it remains to be seen if the government will consider any legislative changes of their own.

VISA DECISIONS AND WAITING TIMES

For most visas, the Department indicates that you can expect a decision within eight weeks after it was received by the Irish Visa Office, Embassy or Consulate you sent it to. However, in the experience of our office, most visa applicants experience much long processing periods on their visa applications.

According to information on the INIS website, as of July 3rd 2018, business and employment visa applications received by the 11th of June 2018 are currently being reviewed.

Join family applications received by the INIS offices on the 7th of February 2018 are currently being reviewed.

According to the INIS website, applications which take longer than average if you have not submitted the necessary supporting documentation, your supporting documentation needs to be verified, because of personal circumstances, for example if you have a criminal conviction. Processing times can change during the year, for example before holiday periods.

Also, according to the INIS website, if the sponsor for the application in Ireland is an Irish citizen they aim to process your application within 6 months after they have receive all the necessary documentations. If the sponsor  in Ireland is entitled to immediate family reunification they also aim to process the application within 6 months after they receive all your necessary documents. They indicate that all other sponsors applications are aimed to be processed within 12 months after receiving all the necessary documentations.

In the experience of Berkeley Solicitors, some applications for a Join Family visa take much longer than the five month period suggested on the INIS website.

Depending on which Embassy the application is being processed, many join family visa applications take up to one year or longer.

We are aware of a number of visa applicants who have waiting over two years on their first instance decision, and have issued court proceedings due to the delay.

At Berkeley Solicitors, we do our best to assist our clients through this lengthy visa application process, and where necessary we can advise on issuing proceedings due to unreasonable delay.

IRELAND’S POPULATION GROWTH FIVE TIMES EU AVERAGE

According to new figures Ireland’s population growth was more than five times the EU average in 2017. The number of residents in total in the Republic of Ireland rose by 53,900 last year to nearly 4.84 million, an increase of 1.1%. The EU average is a staggering 0.2% in comparison. Ireland had the fourth highest rate of population growth within the EU in the year 2017. However, Ireland holds the distinct title of having the highest birth rate of any EU member state with 12.9 births per 1,000 population.

The only other countries to have experienced higher and more drastic rates of population growth are Malta, Luxembourg and Sweden. A factor contributing to the increase in figures for these countries comes from the impact of immigration in those countries. With this in mind Ireland had the highest rate of natural increase. This meaning there was an excess of births over deaths in Ireland in 2017. This is not the case for 13 Eu member states such as Germany, Italy, Spain and Finland where the death rates outweigh the birth rates. The EU’s overall natural population falling.

Ireland has the youngest population of all Europeans as well as retaining its position as having the lowest death rate in the EU. The findings show with 6.3 deaths per 1,000 population compared to the average of 10.3 deaths per 1,000 in the year 2017. Overall the population of the EU increased in 2017 from 511.5 million to 512.6 million, an increase of 0.2%. The CSO has released its prediction that Ireland’s population will continue to grow until 2051 when it will reach almost 6.7 million.

Berkeley Solicitors