Summary: Recognised refugees have a qualified and an unqualified right to have their family members join them in the State. The rights depend on which family members are seeking to join him here. The issue of dependency is very important for family members who are not a spouse, minor child, or parent (of a refugee who is a minor).
There are very lengthy delays in applications for family reunification being processed and often applicants are requested to provide documentary evidence that is not available to them. We have assisted many clients in overcoming such difficulties and from our direct experience have seen the importance of legal submissions accompanying applications for family reunification.
There is provision under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996 for an individual who has been recognised as a refugee in the State to make an application for his family members to join him here, under the family reunification procedure.
There is an unqualified right for a recognised refugee to have the following family members join him in the State:
His/her spouse (provided the marriage was subsisting on the date of the application for asylum); Minor children who were under 18 years at the date of application for asylum and are unmarried; The parents of a refugee where he or she was a minor on application for refugee status There is a qualified right for a recognised refugee to have a dependent member of the family join him in the State which is described in Section 18 as: any grandparent, parent, brother, sister, child, grandchild, ward or guardian of the refugee who is dependent on the refugee or is suffering from a mental or physical disability to such extent that it is not reasonable for him or her to maintain himself or herself fully.
To make an application for family reunion, the refugee must write to the Department of Justice and Equality setting out the details of their family members and providing documentary evidence supporting their relationship. The Department will then pass the case to the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) who proceed to investigate the case. ORAC will issue the refugee with a detailed questionnaire, often followed by further queries specific to the Applicant’s case. ORAC will then prepare a report on the application that ordinarily includes a recommendation as to whether family reunion should be granted. The file is then transferred back to the Department, whereby further queries and requests for documents are often sought. At this stage, applicants are often requested to provide large amounts of supporting documentation that may not be available to them, or which may be very difficult to obtain. DNA evidence is not a requirement but is often requested by the Department in cases where the documentary evidence is not available. Finally, a determination of the application will be issued by the Family Reunification Section of the Department.
In practical terms, the application process is long and drawn out and generally takes over two years to reach completion. In some cases, we have noted extraordinary delays extending to as long as three or four years.
We have assisted many clients at all stages of the Family Reunification process.