Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Family Reunion applications: An update


There has been a recent change to the form sent out by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) to be completed by those applying for family reunion as a refugee.

The previous form was a reasonably short document requesting information regarding the family relationships and the circumstances of the family members. The form also required details of the refugee’s financial and accommodation situation in Ireland.

The new form now being sent out by ORAC is considerably longer. It requests specifics of any dependency between the refugee and the applicants. The form also requests relatively detailed information on the financial circumstances of the applicants, including how they are financially supported, whether they are working, and whether they are capable of supporting themselves financially.

What is particularly noticeable is the updated list of documents now requested by ORAC to support the application. Many of the new documents listed refer to minor applicants and required documents include for example evidence of schooling, evidence of legal guardianship, original death certificates if the minor child’s parents are deceased. The list stretches to 37 documents that may be requested in total as compared to the 10 documents previously requested on the old form.

In some respects the new form may be welcomed. We have often had clients complete the old form and then receive a letter from ORAC listing a huge number of further questions therefore delaying the processing of the application. However, we have ongoing concerns about the level of supporting documentation that the refugee and the applicant(s) are expected to provide to support the application. These documents are often simply unobtainable particularly for Somali clients and there is often little or no consideration given to reasonable explanations of why such documents may not be available to applicants.

We would highlight that any consideration in respect of dependency in such applications must take into account the recent decision of Mr Justice Hogan in the case of RX, QMA and CXN v Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform, delivered on the 10th December 2010.  Mr Justice Hogan emphasized that the word “dependency” within the meaning of Section 18 of the Refugee Act refers to dependency in fact - i.e. that dependency existed when the subjects of the family reunification application depended for financial survival on the remittances transmitted by the Applicant, even though she in turn was herself dependant on social welfare payments in this State. Mr Justice Hogan further emphasized that whether the Applicant could maintain the family members in Ireland on arrival is not the test that Section 18 (4) posits.

On a general note, a major ongoing concern for us in relation to family reunion cases are the extensive delays our clients experience in having the applications determined. We were recently instructed by a client who has been waiting since 2007 for his application to be determined, and since this time, his family members have become separated and one of them has disappeared. We are fortunate to have now been able to move this case along for the client but there has been no explanation or apology for the delay to date.

As always, we welcome any queries or comments you may have on this issue.

Brophy Solicitors, 03.08.11


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