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17 April 2018

Child refugees have the right to bring family, EU court rules

The European Court of Justice ruled last week that unaccompanied child refugees who arrive in Europe have the right to apply for family members to join them. Refugee minors also retain the right to family reunification even if they become adults during the asylum process.  

The full court ruling can be found here.

The case centres around a girl from Eritrea, who arrived in the Netherlands unaccompanied and was granted asylum in 2014. Her application for family reunification was rejected on the grounds that she turned 18 during the process. The decision was contested, cumulating into the judgement last week where the court overturned the refusal.

The new ruling clarified that an application for family reunification must be made within three months of the date on which a minor becomes a recognised refugee. However, it is the right of child refugees to family reunification, “which is not subject to a margin of discretion on the part of Member States”. The press release on the new judgement can be found here.

The new judgement could affect thousands of refugees in similar situations. In the UK, only adult refugees are permitted bring parents or siblings. Unaccompanied child refugees are not allowed to apply for family reunification. The BBC reported that MPs backed a proposed legislation to allow child refugees to sponsor close relatives to settle with them in the UK. The government has not shown support for the bill.