Thursday, 2 May 2013

Questions (11, 12)

Seán Crowe


11. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when his new policy on family reunification will be published and implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20834/13]

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Pearse Doherty


12. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of family reunification cases currently being delayed by the current pause in processing certain categories pending his new policy in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20835/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 and 12 together.

Work has been underway on a policy document on family reunification for some time and this is now well advanced. It is my intention to publish this document in the coming weeks. That is not to say that no policies are in place as things stand. On the contrary, every year the immigration authorities process significant levels of family reunification applications with variations in potential eligibility depending on the circumstances. However I believe there is a need to overhaul our policies in this area. I believe we can provide a more comprehensive set of rules and regulations so that applicants and practitioners can have a better understanding of likely outcomes and our own officials have more complete guidelines to help them in their work. In addition I think it would be helpful for the State to explain the rationale for its policies.

Family reunification is a matter of considerable importance within the immigration system and accounts for a substantial proportion of the work of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service. It is entirely natural that families would wish to be together as a unit and indeed family reunification contributes in a positive sense to integration of the family members in the host country. Moreover both the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights recognise the importance of the family. Of course this does not equate to a right to family reunification but it has nevertheless a significant bearing on the policy choices that the Government of the day will make.

The Government has a duty to control immigration in furtherance of public policy, including operation of the Common Travel Area. Ultimately family reunification policy is a question of finding the appropriate balance between the legitimate aspirations of the family and its members to reside together in Ireland and the interests of the wider society, including those relating to the economy. Sometimes these interests will coincide and in some cases they may not. The document will focus on those areas where family reunification is a matter of national policy. Accordingly the focus will be on family reunification both where the sponsor is an Irish national and where he/she is from outside the EEA. Family reunification for the non-EEA members of the family of an EU national who as moved to Ireland in exercise of free movement rights are governed by EU law. The policy document will include guidelines on all the main issues involved in determining an application for residence in Ireland on the basis of family reunification including eligibility, the concept of sponsorship, dependency, financial resources and personal requirements.

To date there less than 50 visa applications worldwide in respect of family reunification awaiting consideration in anticipation of the introduction of this new policy. It should be noted that most of the normal family caseload is not impacted. It is only those cases of particular complexity that need to be held at this point.