The young Irish citizens forced abroad and unable to return home
Children of emigrants are seeking to come back to Ireland under the European Court of Justice’s landmark Zambrano judgement
Matthew Emeka Ezeani, in traditional Igbo dress, in his office on Gardiner Street where he practised as a solicitor. Photograph: Frank Miller
“My daughter has a lot to contribute to Ireland, ” says Linda*, “just like every other Irish child.”
In Nigeria’s loud and chaotic commercial capital – where child hawkers serenade motorists stuck in “go slows” and traders eke out an existence in ramshackle shops – one wonders how many of Ireland’s forgotten children are faces in the crowd: young citizens whose parents are waiting for permission to return with their families to Ireland, under a landmark European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling.
Linda met The Irish Times in Ikeja, Lagos – home to the office of Governor of Lagos state Babatunde Fashola. The governor is an energetic administrator who has won praise for transport and sanitation reforms, and he has plans that are as huge as the city itself. However progress will be slow in a country ranked 153rd out of 186 in the UN Human Development Index.
Linda knows that the future may not come soon enough for her Irish citizen daughter. Her education is suffering and basic infrastructure lacking.
“Sometimes you do not get light for weeks,” says Linda, “What do you do?”
Linda was among several Nigerian parents of Irish citizens who spoke in person, or over the phone, to highlight waits of about two years to gain a visa to Ireland and apply for residency under the terms of the ECJ Zambrano judgment of March 2011.
The Zambrano ruling, which concerned a Colombian living in Belgium with Belgian citizen children, found that article 20 of the TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) precluded member states from refusing a non-EU national, upon whom his EU children were dependent, a right of residence in the member state of residence and nationality of those children. It also precluded such member states from refusing to grant a work permit to that non-European Union national.
The judgment has implications for all EU countries. Minister for Justice Alan Shatter subsequently announced that he had instructed officials to examine all relevant cases before the courts and instances where deportation was being considered. He said consideration would also be given to cases involving Irish citizen children who had to leave the State when their parents were refused permission to remain.
Ireland’s embryonic immigration system and the fact of automatic citizenship by birth having ceased in 2005, compared with 1983 in the case of Britain, has made Zambrano a somewhat more taxing affair for Ireland. However, the implications continue to play out across Europe.
In June, for example, the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) in the UK confirmed that there was no reason why the decision in Zambrano could not in principle be relied upon by the parent or other primary carer of a minor EU national living outside the EU as long as the intention was to accompany the child to his/her country of nationality.