Last week, the International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017 was submitted to the Irish Parliament (Oireachtas). The amendment concerns section 56 of the International Protection Act, governing the conditions for family reunification of refugees and subsidiary protection beneficiaries.
The bill abolishes the deadline for applying for family reunification. Currently, a beneficiary of international protection must apply for family reunification within 12 months of being issued with a refugee declaration or subsidiary protection declaration in Ireland. Such a deadline exists in other countries such as Belgium, whereas Germany, Sweden, Greece and the Netherlands require refugees to apply for family reunification within 3 months to avoid requirements of sufficient income, accommodation and health insurance.
The International Protection Act has also narrowed the scope of the right to family reunion compared to its predecessor, the Refugee Act 1996, by removing the possibility of beneficiaries reuniting with dependent family members such as children, grandchildren, siblings, parents or grandparents suffering from physical or mental disability and not reasonably expected to maintain themselves. The Family Reunification Amendment bill aims to reintroduce this provision in the law without allowing the Minister for Justice to exercise discretion on the notion of dependency, as was the case in the Refugee Act.
Beyond Ireland, a Refugee Family Reunion Bill is likely to be submitted in the United Kingdom with a view to broadening the definition of eligible family members and allowing refugee children to be reunited with their parents.
For more information, see:
Oxfam Ireland, Seanad Group introduces bill to reunite refugee families, 17 July 2017.
AIDA, Country Report Ireland, 2016 Update, March 2017.