Tag Archive for: refugee rights

JUDGMENT ON FAMILY REUNIFICATION OF ADOPTED CHILDREN UNDER SECTION 56

On 22nd July 2022, Ms. Justice Donnelly of the Civil Court of Appeal delivered judgment in the case of H.A. v. The Minister for Justice. The Minister for Justice appealed to the Court of Appeal following the Judgment in favour of the applicant in the High Court.

H.A. is a national of Somalia who was granted refugee status in the State by the Minister on 9th July 2019. On 11th June 2020, H.A. submitted a request for her husband, niece and nephew to join her in the State on the ground of family reunification under section 56 of the International Protection Act. H.A.’s request was granted for her husband and rejected for her niece and nephew.

H.A.’s niece and nephew, ‘X’ and ‘Y’, are cousins. X and Y are orphans after both children’s parents died during fighting in Somalia. On 11th November 2019 a Somali court issued H.A. a “Declaration of Responsibility” in respect of X and Y, making H.A. the legal guardian of the children. When H.A. applied for family reunification, she classified X and Y as her ‘non-biological children’ and included the Declaration of Responsibility among the supplemental documents.

H.A.’s letter of request also referenced the then-recent judgment in X v. Minister for Justice and Equality (2019), in which Mr. Justice Barrett J. held that there is a “wide diversity of family structures” and that the definition of a “child” can extend beyond that of biological and adopted. In a judgment delivered on 7th June 2020, two days before H.A. submitted her application for family reunification, the Supreme Court overturned Mr. Justice Barrett’s judgment, holding that the definition of a child, for the purposes of section 56 of the International Protection Act 2015, is confined to a biological or adopted child only.

H.A. applied for judicial review on the decision, stating that she believed the Declaration of Responsibility was not adequately considered and for failure to provide reasons for the decision. H.A. argued that a “refugee-sensitive” approach to the concept of adoption should be taken in this case, considering the family’s situation and the differences in the interpretation of adoption across different cultures.

Mr. Justice Ferriter J. of the High Court agreed that the Declaration of Responsibility was a vital part of H.A.’s application for family reunification. He held that the decision-maker had erred by not referencing or engaging with the Declaration of Responsibility.” Mr. Justice Ferriter declined to rule on whether X and Y would fall under the restricted definition of “child” according to section 56 of the International Protection Act (2015) and conceded that H.A. may have difficulty proving that X and Y are her children according to this limited definition. Mr. Justice Ferriter further stated that H.A. should be given the opportunity to make that argument.

The Minister submitted that because Somalia is not a Hague Convention country, there is no bilateral agreement even if the Declaration of Responsibility translates to adoption in Somali culture. H.A. submitted that the key issue was rather the law of the country of origin, because “the Declaration of Responsibility is equivalent in large part to a foreign adoption although it could never be recognized as such under the Hague Convention.”

Ms. Justice Donnelly’s ultimate findings are that the High Court was correct in finding that the Declaration of Responsibility was not properly considered by the Minister and the Declaration was vital to determining whether X and Y are non-biological children of the respondent.

Ms. Justice Donnelly further found that the Minister’s assertion that the trial judge incorrectly granted certiorari on the grounds that H.A.’s case was “bound to fail” must be rejected.

Ms. Justice Donnelly states that “the respondent’s case has reached the level of arguability that is required before a court should decline the invitation to refuse to grant certiorari on the ground that the subsequent remittal would be a futile exercise.”

We submit that the Supreme Court decision in the X case has clarified that a “child” within the meaning of Section 56 is limited to biological and adopted children and this position was followed by the Court of Appeal in this case.

However, we submit that the precise meaning of an “adopted child” is a matter which is still to be tested before the Courts, the Court in this case noted:

.An important consideration is that while X v. Minister for Justice and Equality held that the child of a sponsor meant solely the biological or the adopted child of the sponsor, the Supreme Court was not asked to, and did not consider, the precise meaning of “[a]dopted child” as set out in s. 18(d) of the Interpretation Act. That point did not arise in X and, as is frequently said, a point not raised is a point not decided.

IMPORTANT HIGH COURT JUDGEMENT ON FAMILY REUNIFICATION RIGHTS OF REFUGEES

IMPORTANT HIGH COURT JUDGEMENT ON FAMILY REUNIFICATION RIGHTS OF REFUGEES

On 27th June 2022, Mr Justice Ferriter of the High Court gave judgment in the judicial review cases of SH and AJ. Both cases address the application of s.56 of the International Protection Act 2015.

S.56(a)(d) of the International Protection Act 2015 states that the child of an applicant for family reunification must be under 18 years of age and unmarried at the time of application for family reunification.

A basic understanding of the cases of SH and AJ is necessary to understand the High Court ruling.

SH is a national of Syria. His wife and their three children, NH (born 31st May 2009), AH (born 24th April 2003) and ZH (born 29th April 2000) remain in Syria.

SH experienced significant delays in the processing of his application for international protection as the Minister reported that the department was experiencing delays due to the onset of Covid-19. Because of these delays, SH did not receive an IPO interview until the 14th May 2021.

SH was informed by letter of a declaration of his refugee status on 1st June 2021. SH’s son, AH, turned 18 on 24th April 2021.

On 7th July 2021, SH made an application for family reunification based on s.56 for his wife and three children. On 9th July 2021, the Minister denied SH’s application for family reunification because AH and ZH were aged 18 years and 21 years, respectively, at the time of application.

On 14th October 2021, SH applied under the Minister’s administrative Join Family policy document for long stay visas for AH and ZH. The application has not yet been determined.
AJ is a national of Somalia who fled the country to avoid persecution by Al Shabab, a terrorist group. AJ arrived in the State on the 8th August 2019 and applied for international protection the same day. AJ’s wife and three children remain in Somalia. AJ’s oldest son, MJ, was born on the 2nd January 2003. AJ’s twins were born on the 8th October 2005.
AJ was formally granted refugee status on the 11th November 2020. AJ’s son, MJ, turned 18 on 2nd January 2021.

On 29th January 2021, AJ applied for family reunification under s.56 for his wife and three children. The application was denied the same day on that basis that MJ was over 18 years of age on the date of application.

AJ requested a review of this decision; the original decision was upheld.

AJ then made an application for MJ under the Minister’s administrative Join Family policy document for a long stay visa. This application was refused on the 6th May 2021. AJ sought review of this decision. The review is currently pending.

Both SH and AJ hold that the delay in processing their applications led to a situation where their children aged out of eligibility for family reunification pursuant to Section 56.
The applicants further argued that the relevant date for reviewing the entitlement to family reunification is the date that the applicant applied for international protection, holding that family reunification is a right guaranteed by EU law.

Justice Ferriter held in this regard that Section 56 is a matter of policy choice by the legislature- “it follows that Section 56(9)(d) is not in breach of EU law.”
Applicant AJ also argued his entitlement for Francovich damages. The Court held that there was a breach of Article 22 of the Qualification Directive in respect of AJ’s case.

Mr Justice Ferriter concedes that both applicants likely would have been granted family reunification for all family members if not for the delays in processing their international protection applications, though the department does not bare legal fault for the lengthy processing of the applications.

Mr Justice Ferriter states that, in his view, there is no EU law right to family reunification in Ireland from the date of a refugee’s application of international protection.

Judge Ferriter referred to and relied on the Supreme Judgment of ASSI in his judgment, in which the constitutionality of Section 56(8) and Section 56(9)(a) of the 2015 were upheld.

Ultimately, Mr Justice Ferriter refused SH’s application for relief and adjourned for further review AJ’s claim for Francovich damages, stating that ‘it is difficult to form any view on the damages said to arise in circumstance where a review decision is still pending in respect of AJ’s scheme application’.

The Court held that the Court, nor the Minister was entitled to disapply a statutory provision that the applicants did not meet. The Court found that it could not re write the contents of Section 56(9)(d) and that to do so would amount to an improper usurpation of the Courts constitutional role.

The Court found that in absence of a free standing right to family reunification, the Legislature is entitled to put parameters on the rights to family reunification for the beneficiaries of international protection.

In relation to the Minister’s Policy Document on Non-EEA Family reunification, the Court commented that it is preferrable that guidelines do exist in respect of the operation of the Minister’s discretion in this area. The Court also commented that in it’s view there may be occasions, of cases of such a humanitarian nature, that to expect an applicant to wait 12 months for a decision would not be proportionate.

We submit that the provisions of Section 56 are too restrictive in nature and are causing devastation for families of refuges. We submit that the parameters of those provisions is a matter that should be revisited by the Legislature.

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

IMPORTANT HIGH COURT RULING DEEMS REFUSAL OF FAMILY REUNIFICATION TO SPOUSES/CIVIL PARTNERS OF REFUGEES/SUBSIDIARY PROTECTION HOLDERS UNCONSTITUTIONAL

The recent High Court judgment of Mr Justice Barrett in the joined cases of A. vs The Minister for Justice and Equality and S. and S. vs. The Minister for Justice and Equality has held as unconstitutional the statutory provision excluding family reunification rights to the spouses and civil partners of refugees whose marriage took place after the granting of refugee status.

This is a very favorable development for the holders of refugee status or subsidiary protection who wish to apply for family reunification for their spouse/civil partner but who were not married at the time that they made their application for protection in the State.

These joined cases raised the question, as to whether s. 56(9)(a) of the International Protection Act 2015 is unconstitutional and/or incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights.

The context of this judgements is that previously, under the Refugee Act 1996, now repealed, refugees were  eligible for family reunification with their spouse whether or not they had been married at the time at which they made their application for protection in the State.

Under the more recent International Protection Act 2015, section 56(9)(a) and (b) provides that holders of refugee status and subsidiary protection are only eligible for family reunification with their spouse where their marriage took place prior to the date of their application for protection in the State.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Barrett declared that Section 56(9)(a) is “repugnant to the provisions of the Constitution” and is therefore “invalid and does not have the force of law.”

The Court found that there was no objective and reasonable justification in this context for a differentiation in treatment between couples married pre-flight to those married post-flight, referring to the European Court of Human Rights case Hode and Abdi v. UK, in which that Court had objected to differentiation in treatment on the basis of the time of marriage.

The Judge went on to state that although it was no longer necessary as the section had already been declared unconstitutional, the court would also have declared that Section 56(9)(a) is incompatible with the State’s obligation under Article 14 ECHR read together with Article 8 ECHR, the latter protecting the rights to family and private life.

The Court in this ruling has notably departed from the judgment of RC or VB v. The Minister for Justice [2019] IEHC 55, which dealt with a similar question.

This judgment has significant implications for refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection who have applied for their spouse or civil partner to be granted family reunification and who have been refused on the basis that their marriage took place after they made their application for protection in the State.

The judgement also opens to the door for refugees who failed to submit an application for family reunification for their spouse or civil partner under the 2015 Act, on the basis that they believed they were not eligible under Section 56 (9) (a).

If you believe this may affect you please contact the office with your questions and we will seek to assist you in the next steps.

 

IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENTS ON THE RIGHT TO WORK FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS

 

The Government is to lift some of the restrictions facing asylum-seekers seeking work and allow for greater access to social welfare payments and alternative accommodation. Last May it was declared by the Supreme Court that the ban on asylum seekers entering employment was unconstitutional “in principle” and the cabinet agreed to lift the ban last November, in line with a European directive.

Currently asylum-seekers who are in direct provision in Ireland currently have a weekly allowance of €21.60 and can buy food using a recently introduced points system. As of December 2017, there are 5,096 people within direct provision. Before the 20-year-old ban preventing people seeking asylum from working was lifted the direct provision program was undeniably restrictive and rigid. About 3,000 people face a wait of about a year and a half for a decision on their asylum claim.

The proposals regarding the conditions under which the ban will be lifted will be announced by Mr Flanagan and Minister of State David Staunton. The proposals come a year after the Supreme Court found the ban on asylum seekers working in this country was unconstitutional. The ban however is not lifted in its entirety. There are still restrictions on certain occupations that cannot be accessed by asylum-seekers within direct provision. Asylum seekers will be able to seek any form of employment except with An Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces or the Civil Service.

Government claim the decision to deny access to the Garda, the Defence Forces and the Civil Service was due to the permanent nature of the positions. “It is not clear whether all asylum seekers will become permanent residents and therefore until that is clear, they will not be in a position to work in those three sectors. However, they will be able to work elsewhere.” With this in mind it is still a massive step forward regarding the status of asylum-seekers. Access to social welfare payments will also be permitted to those who find employment.

Granting people, the right to work brings Ireland into line with other European countries. The governments justification for the ban in Ireland has been that it will create a pull factor, increasing the number of asylum seekers looking to seek refuge in Ireland. It is the topic of constant debate.

People can also be asked to pay towards the cost of their direct provision accommodation if their earning exceeds certain limits, but this contribution will be capped at around €35 per

day, the cost to the state of providing direct provision per person. If a person is granted permission to gain employment and have been working for over 12 weeks, their direct provision allowance of €21.60 will be reduced or withdrawn. Children’s allowance will not have their allowance taken and will not be charged for their accommodation if their parents are working.

Refugee support groups are welcoming new measures which open the Irish labour market to asylum seekers.

We at Berkeley Solicitors also welcome this development which we submit now brings Ireland in line with our legal obligations towards asylum seekers. We believe that it is logical that asylum seekers are given the opportunity to support themselves while they await the outcome of their application for protection. It will also create a fairer and more humane asylum system.

Berkeley Solicitors

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