Human rights commission argues citizens who came to Ireland as refugees should not be denied family reunification



Two people who came to Ireland as refugees but subsequently naturalised as Irish citizens should not have been denied access to the family reunification scheme, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has said.

The Commission has appeared before the Court of Appeal as amicus curiae in the ‘MAM’ and ‘KN’ test cases, which are being heard jointly. In both cases, the Minister for Justice and Equality refused their applications for family reunification on the basis that they were no longer entitled to “refugee” family reunification since becoming Irish citizens.

The person in the MAM case sought family reunification in respect of her husband, while the person in KN sought reunification in respect of her adult daughter and two granddaughters.

Acting as amicus curiae, the commission sought to assist the court with regards to the right to family reunification, the situation of naturalised refugees, and international human rights law.

Its legal submissions focus on whether the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) or the Irish Constitution confer a right to family reunification on refugees and, if so, what effect that right would have on the interpretation of the Refugee Act 1996.

The commission concludes that article 8 of the ECHR, which protects private and family life, does guarantee a right to family reunification to refugees even if they have acquired citizenship. The commission found it possible to identify MAM and KN’s right to the mutual care, society and protection of their families guaranteed by article 40.3 and article 41 of the Constitution.

The commission advised the court of its view that the Minister for Justice and Equality’s interpretation of the Refugee Act 1996 could be contrary to article 40.1, 40.3 and article 41 of the Constitution, which focus on fundamental rights and the rights of families.

Chief Commissioner Emily Logan said: “These two cases before the Court of Appeal raise significant questions on the right of naturalised refugees to family reunification.

“In our submissions to the Court of Appeal, the commission has focused on the State’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and the Constitution of Ireland in relation to how these family’s requests to reunification are treated by the State.

“The two families at the centre of these cases are seeking reunification with immediate family members and, as these cases speak directly to the State’s obligations under Irish and international law, the commission as Ireland’s national human rights institution is exercising our statutory powers and independent status to provide an experience-based international human rights perspective.”