The European Court of Justice (ECJ) recently ruled on whether unaccompanied minor refugees can enjoy family reunification with their parents even if they reach the age of majority during the family reunification procedure.
The case in object
In this specific case a Syrian unaccompanied minor had obtained refugee status in Austria. His parents and adult sister had applied for an Austrian residence permit to be able to reunite with him. However, the Austrian authorities had rejected the application. The reason for the rejection was that, following the submission of these applications, the Syrian unaccompanied citizen had come of age.
Therefore, the parents and sister decided to appeal at the local administrative court. The administrative court approached the ECJ asking what the correct interpretation was with regard to the right of family reunification.
The ECJ’s ruling
In this regard, the ECJ clarified that European directives grant specific protection to refugees. In fact, given their vulnerability, they specifically favor unaccompanied minor refuges by granting them the right to family reunification with their parents.
Firstly, the ECJ held that the unaccompanied minor refugee, who become an adult during the procedure of the family reunification application, is entitled to such reunification.
Consequently, the application cannot be rejected on the grounds that the refugee is no longer a minor at the date of the decision on that application. That is, the minor’s right to reunification cannot be subordinated to the processing time of the application filed.
Secondly, the ECJ approved the minor’s right to reunification with his adult sister too, as she suffered from a serious illness that made her dependent on her parents.
Finally, the ECJ noted that it was impossible for the unaccompanied refugee to meet the minimum housing and insurance requirements, as well as the financial requirement. In this particular case, therefore, the right to family reunification could not be conditioned on meeting those requirements.