Asylum Seekers Can’t Use Brexit to Get Help From Ireland

(CN) – Brexit should not alter how countries handle asylum applications that they would otherwise refer to the U.K. authorities, the European Court of Justice ruled Wednesday.

The case arose from an application for asylum that a family identified in the case record only by their initials filed in Ireland in January 2016.

A traffic crossing at the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the village of Bridgend, County Donegal, Ireland. (Brian Lawless/PA, File via AP)

Tuesday’s ruling does not specify the parents’ country of origin but it says mother S.A. entered the United Kingdom in 2010 on a student visa, and that father M.A. joined her the following year after obtaining a dependent. Some time after the couple had a child in February 2014, however, the college where S.A. studied closed down, and the couple’s visas expired.

As Ireland considered the family’s asylum applications meanwhile, M.A. claimed that her medical problems, and the fact that her child was being assessed by Ireland’s national health service for a separate health issue, required their case to be decided in Ireland.

Ireland understood that Article 17 of asylum protocol known as the Dublin III Regulation gave it discretion to take responsibility for the case here, but the Refugee Applications Commissioner nevertheless opted to have the United Kingdom take over.

S.A. and M.A. invoked Brexit on appeal, prompting Ireland’s High Court to seek input from the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice.

On Wednesday, that court’s First Chamber ruled that the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union has no impact on how other member states employ the Dublin System.

“The fact that a member state, designated as ‘responsible’ within the meaning of that regulation, has notified its intention to withdraw from the European Union in accordance with Article 50 TEU, does not oblige the determining Member State to itself examine, under the discretionary clause set out in Article 17(1), the application for protection at issue,” the opinion states.

Ireland also faces no requirement to consider the best interests of the child.

In fact, the ruling says “respect for family life and, more specifically, preserving the unity of the family group is, as a general rule, in the best interests of the child.”

“In the absence of evidence to the contrary, that provision establishes a presumption that it is in the best interests of the child to treat that child’s situation as indissociable from that of its parents,” the ruling continues.

As for whether asylum applicants could expect to suffer “inhuman or degrading treatment” in a country outside the EU, the court found that the U.K.’s notice to leave cannot, by itself, support that conclusion.

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