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EU court backs family-oriented reading of German asylum law

One refugee parent is enough to confer status on a child born in Germany, Europe's top court ruled Tuesday.

(CN) — Europe's highest court on Tuesday said Germany should grant refugee status to a girl born in Germany whose mother, a Tunisian, was not eligible for asylum but whose father, a Syrian, was afforded international protection.

The European Court of Justice said granting refugee status to the girl is in the best interests of keeping the family together and upholding the Syrian man's right to asylum in Germany.

After she was born, the girl was denied refugee status by Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees because of her Tunisian nationality, which she obtained from her Libyan-born mother. Tunisians generally cannot claim asylum in the European Union because their country is relatively stable. The high court said it had not been established whether the child had Syrian citizenship.

The girl's parents argued that she should be granted refugee status in light of her father being a Syrian refugee who'd fled his country's civil war in 2015.

The plaintiffs took their case all the way to Germany's Federal Administrative Court where they argued that German law allows the children of refugees to be automatically granted protection even in cases such as this one where one parent was not a refugee. The German law aims to protect the unity of refugee families.

But in denying the girl refugee status, German immigration officials relied upon a strict reading of EU laws and the Geneva Convention that they said allowed them to deny the girl international protection based on her ability to safely live in Tunisia.

The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice, sitting as the grand chamber, was called upon by the German Federal Administrative Court to smooth out the differences between German and EU laws.

It agreed with the plaintiffs and said EU asylum rules cannot be interpreted as excluding Germany from automatically granting asylum to the children of refugees even if one parent is not a refugee.

Forcing the girl's father to move to Tunisia, the court noted, would amount to her father “waiving the right to asylum conferred on him in Germany.” As of press time, a copy of the decision was not available in English.

The high court is considering another case involving the rights of refugees seeking to maintain the unity of their families. In that case, a Syrian refugee in Austria is seeking to be united with his daughters in Belgium, one of whom is a minor. In September, a magistrate-level judge advised the court to rule that European authorities need to consider allowing refugees to move between EU countries so they can be reunited with family members.

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

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