Government should support recommendation on family reunification says Justice Committee

Government should support recommendation on family reunification says Justice Committee

  • Senator Colette Kelleher, Oxfam, Irish Refugee Council and Nasc welcome report by Joint Committee on Justice and Equality.
  • Committee finds that a broader definition of family would be fairer to those fleeing from conflict situations.

 

A group calling for a fairer system to reunify refugee families in Ireland who have been separated by persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations, has welcomed a report by the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality. The report recommends that the Government should allow legislation broadening the current definition of family contained in the International Protection Act to progress through the Dáil. 

Senator Colette Kelleher, who initiated the legislation, Oxfam, Irish Refugee Council and Nasc fully endorse the findings, which state that the current regime is too restrictive and that it needs to better reflect the realities of refugee familial relationships.

Currently in Ireland, refugees can only apply to be reunited with immediate family members and children under the age of 18. The proposed amendment would broaden the definition of eligible family members to include; elderly parents, who are often too old and vulnerable to make the arduous journey to flee brothers, sisters, and  children over the age of 18. This would allow families an opportunity to apply to reunite in a place of safety and peace help them to rebuild their lives and fully integrate into their communities in Ireland.

The implications of the current restrictions were recently presented by students from Largy College in Clones, Monaghan, who visited Leinster House to tell the House about the real challenges faced by refugees on their journey to safety. Whilst there, the transition year class took the opportunity to advocate on behalf of fellow Largy College student Lilav, a Syrian teenager who was separated from her sister during the conflict.

In an open letter to officials, Lilav said: "My family and I left Aleppo eight years ago because of the war. We spent two and a half years in Turkey. While in Turkey, my older sister Jihan, married Gmo, who is also from Syria. Jihan followed her husband’s wishes and stayed in Turkey while the rest of my family moved to Greece.  We spent two years living in Greece before moving to Ireland. Jihan and Gmo stayed in Turkey until 2015 before returning to Syria following the death of Gmo’s brother. They had only planned to return to Syria for a few weeks”.

Liav continued “Due to the war, they have been unable to leave. Jihan and Gmo now have two young daughters. Elena aged one and a half and Lilav who is five months old. Syria is not a safe place for my two beautiful nieces to grow up.  Life is extremely difficult for my sister and her young family in Syria. There is no guarantee that Jihan or her family will survive. They are in a lot of danger.”

The narrowing of access to family reunification for people granted international protection under changes to the legislation made in 2015 was recently highlighted by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to mark World Refugee Day, stating that the International Protection Act 2015 should be amended to widen the definition of family members to recognise the diversity of family forms in compliance with international human rights obligations.

Senator Colette Kelleher said: “I welcome the Detailed Scrutiny Report by the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality published today. It shows that the ‘Family Reunification’ Bill is an important, humane proposal, deserving of a money message by Government. It is in line with IHREC’s recent recommendations on refugee family reunification. My Bill returns to a more compassionate system in place for nearly two decades and gives desperate families torn apart by war and conflict, the chance to apply to be reunited in safety, puts the process on a firmer footing and within reasonable timescales. The ‘Family Reunification’ Bill recognises the diversity of family forms in compliance with international human rights obligations.”

The ‘Family Reunification’ Bill was initiated to address the restriction introduced by the International Protection Act 2015 and it has passed through all stages of the Seanad with a majority and through the Dáil Second Stage with a large majority of 78-39 in December 2018. However, it was determined that a money message from Government would be required for this Bill to proceed to formal committee stage. Today’s report by the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality recommends that the money message is granted.

 

ENDS

 

CONTACT: Interviews, images and more information available on request contact Nyle Lennon on nyle.lennon@oxfam.org  083 197 5107.

 

Notes to the Editor:

The report by the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality can be downloaded and viewed here: http://bit.ly/2LyGIBj

International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017:  The Bill gives persons who have been granted international protection under the International Protection Act 2015 a statutory entitlement to apply for family reunification in respect of dependent members of the wider family, in addition to their current automatic right of family reunification in respect of the nuclear family.

Money message: In order for Private Members’ Bills, which are deemed by the Ceann Comhairle to involve a charge on the State, to progress to committee stage in the Dáil, they need a ‘money message’ from the government. Historically, this mechanism has rarely been used. However, the denial of a money message has recently been used to block a number of Private Members’ Bills from reaching Committee stage in the Dáil.

 

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