Case review for non-Irish parents of Irish citizens

 

THE RIGHTS of the non-Irish parents of Irish citizen children to live and work in Ireland are to be examined urgently by the Department of Justice, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has announced.

In a major shift in Government policy following a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), Mr Shatter has asked for an examination of all cases before the courts where such parents are fighting deportation, along with a review of cases where deportation is being considered to see if the ECJ ruling might apply. There are about 120 such cases at present before the courts.

The department will also look at cases where the non-Irish parents of Irish children have already been deported to see if they are affected by the ruling, he said.

The ECJ ruling is binding on Ireland and relates to a Colombian family called Zambrano living in Belgium, where the children were Belgian citizens. The court said that the state could not refuse a non-EU national the right to live and work in an EU state where doing so would deprive his or her minor children the enjoyment of their rights as EU citizens.

Mr Shatter told The Irish Times that in most simple cases Irish citizen children were entitled to have both parents live with them in Ireland. “Where there is an intact and real relationship there is very little doubt the child is entitled to both parents living with them in the State,” he said.

But he said the State might refuse residency to non-EU parents of Irish citizen children if they had engaged in serious crime.

“There may be exceptions that will have to be teased out. For example if the non-EU parent of an Irish citizen child is involved in serious criminality – the judgment doesn’t deal with that – we may require further clarification from the ECJ.”

He said parents of Irish citizen children who had been deported could now apply to return to Ireland. “They are in a position where they can communicate with the Department of Justice and their situation will be reviewed. Unless there are exceptional circumstances that entitle the State to refuse them they should be able to come back,” he said.

He said he disagreed with elements of the previous government’s immigration policy.

“We need to reconsider the manner in which issues have been dealt with in the past. We need to deal in a humanitarian and common-sense way with claims but also ensure the system isn’t abused. There are also logjams to be dealt with,” said Mr Shatter.

He said he would bring the Immigration Residence and Protection Bill back to the committee stage in the Dáil. But he would propose substantial amendments to it.

He said a possible approach to this issue was to wait for pending cases to be determined by the Irish courts, and for them to interpret the ECJ ruling. However, the Government had agreed to be proactive and not tie up the courts unnecessarily or ask eligible families to wait longer than necessary.

“This initiative is being taken in the best interests of the welfare of eligible minor Irish citizen children and to ensure that the taxpayer is not exposed to any unnecessary additional legal costs,” he said.

He added that it was important to understand that the judgment applied only where the child is a citizen and had no implications whatever for Irish citizenship law, which remained a matter for the Oireachtas under the Constitution. This was changed in 2005 so that a child of non-Irish parents born in Ireland was no longer automatically entitled to citizenship.

The Department of Justice pointed out that the Zambrano judgment applied EU law to certain situations which had previously been considered to be internal concerns of a member state and to be regulated by national, not EU, law.