Supreme Court to examine family rights in deportation decisions

The court has agreed to hear an appeal against a deportation order issued to a Nigerian national, who is said to be the father of three children lawfully residing in this State.
Supreme Court to examine family rights in deportation decisions

High Court reporters

The Supreme Court is to examine the extent to which the Minister for Justice must consider a person’s constitutional family rights when making a decision to deport them.

The court has agreed to hear an appeal against a deportation order issued to a Nigerian national, who is said to be the father of three children lawfully residing in this State.

In determining that the appeal raised issues of public importance, a three-judge panel said it is in the interests of justice that the correct approach to considering constitutional family rights in deportation decisions be clarified or, indeed, identified.

The applicant entered this State in 2007 and that year married the mother of the three children.

He is recorded as the father on one of the children’s birth certificates and is said to be the father of the other two children, although he is not registered on their birth certificates.

The couple’s marriage via a religious ceremony is not recognised in this State, and they separated later in 2014.

However, he maintains a relationship with the children and was made a joint guardian of them by an order of the District Court made on consent in 2015, the judges noted.

Constitutional right

The man was refused permission to remain in the State and the Minister for Justice issued an order for his deportation.

The High Court refused to overturn the Minister’s decision, saying that breaches of constitutional rights would only arise if it was established that there was a “meaningful involved relationship” between the man and the three children.

The judge found a breach of the asserted constitutional rights arising from the deportation decision had not been established on the evidence.

In appealing directly to the Supreme Court, the man submitted that the judges should determine if the Minister for Justice if foreign nationals with children lawfully resident in the State must expressly refer to and consider the relevant constitutional rights and any potential infringement that might be caused by a deportation.

The man’s team also asked the court to clarify what is the standard necessary to establish a “meaningful involved relationship”, arguing that the test has potentially far-reaching consequences.

The Minister opposed the application, submitting that the High Court judge applied well-settled law.

In their decision agreeing to hear the appeal, Supreme Court judges Mr Justice John MacMenamin, Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley and Mr Justice Seamus Woulfe said an “important question” was raised.

It has been previously established that constitutional family rights ought to be considered by the Minister when making deportation orders.

The court will consider how those rights are affected by the absence of a “meaningful involved relationship”, and whether this is the correct text, or even a test at all, to be applied in deportation decisions, the judges said.

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