Citizens who came to Ireland as refugees win family reunification case in Supreme Court

Two people who came to Ireland as refugees but were subsequently naturalised as Irish citizens were unlawfully denied access to the family reunification scheme, the Supreme Court has found in a landmark ruling.

The judgment in the joint test cases of MAM v. The Minister for Justice and Equality and KN and Ors v. The Minister for Justice and Equality will likely benefit around 50 other applicants whose cases have been pending in the High Court until the conclusion of the appeal.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, which intervened in the case as amicus curiae, welcomed the judgment as “a positive and progressive ruling for refugee rights in Ireland”.

Immigration law specialists Berkeley Solicitors, which represented one of the two women, said in a statement: “We welcome the clarity that this judgment brings and look forward to working with our clients to have the unlawful family reunification decisions withdrawn and re-determined.”

In his judgment, Mr Justice John MacMenamin rejected the Minister for Justice’s interpretation of the Refugee Act 1996, setting out that such an interpretation would lead to substantial legislative uncertainty when the purpose of the Act was to achieve clarity.

The ruling reverses previous judgments of the Court of Appeal and High Court, and in its conclusion recognises the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) jurisprudence on the rights of refugees to family unity.

Dr Frank Conaty, acting chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, said: “The Commission welcomes the recognition of the Strasbourg court rulings in this judgment, clarifying that family unity is a right of refugees, and an essential element in enabling persons who have fled persecution to resume a normal life.

“The Commission hopes that the Irish Government pays due regard to this judgment in future legislative arrangements.

“The Commission has consistently expressed serious concern over legislative changes introduced in 2015 which have narrowed access to family reunification for people granted international protection.”

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