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British citizens and refugee family reunion


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In an unusual example of the Court of Appeal being less liberal than the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, the AIT’s rather good decision in YS and YY (Paragraph 352D – British national sponsor former refugee) Ethiopia [2008] UKAIT 00093 was overturned by the Court of Appeal in DL (DRC) v ECO, Pretoria [2008] EWCA Civ 1420. The Tribunal had decided that the immigration rules on refugee family reunion apply to anyone who was historically recognised as a refugee. This is important to those affected, as it means that the normal requirement to show adequate maintenance and accommodation without recourse to public funds is waived.

The Court of Appeal decided that the natural meaning of the words in the immigration rules and the use of the perfect tense suggest that those who were historically recognised as refugees but are no longer refugees cannot benefit from the refugee family reunion rules. The Court then also decides that refugee status ceases automatically on the grant of British citizenship – or, at least, it used to, until EC Directives 2004/83/EC and 2005/85/EC came into effect. Whether it still does is left as an open question.

The team in one of the two linked Court of Appeal cases is in the process of petitioning the House of Lords.

I am reliably informed that a significant new argument is being run in the petition, along the lines that section 76(3) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 requires a positive step for the removal of ILR granted to a refugee, which suggests that cessation of status is not necessarily automatic.

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The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.


5 Responses

  1. You cannot seriously think that it is a good decision. The premise yes, however it does in theory create 2 types of British Citizenship? a – like most people born/through marriage/through residency. b – because someone came as a refugee. Now I’m sorry, but neither one nor the other should be more favourable, which is exactly what this decision creates. a, above, need to show maintenance, need to show accomodation. b – need to show neither. Remain a refugee = fine. Adopt British Citizenship = enjoy the newly found benefits (and not just monetary) that your new citizenship entitles you to, you are a ‘non-alien’, and therefore the immigration requirements that apply to me, should also apply to you.

    I do, which it may not seem, agree that in theory recognised refugees, and the presumption of family unity within the convention, and their families should be reunited. But it has to stop upon changing nationality – by the reading of the refugee convention that does not even make you a refugee any more.

    1. I do indeed think it is a good decision. Refugees hold a special status in law, and as LondonHOPO says many are not in a comparable position to other British citizens. The various background discussions surrounding the Convention urge States Parties to promote the principle of family unity for refugees. If the law clearly stated that refugees who acquire citizenship are no longer entitled to the benefits of family reunion, so be it, but it is perfectly possible to construe the immigration rules more generously than that – as the tribunal has done, despite not being known in its modern incarnation for taking a liberal approach to anything. Unfortunately, the Court of Appeal have apparently differed.

  2. FM,

    This decision makes complete sense – there was no logic in the previous technical argument. Whilst one might have hoped that by the time a person obtained citizenship they would be able to maintain themselves, I have myself seen many cases where the sponsor was disabled / unable to work – sometimes as a result of injuries sustained in their own countries of origin.

    Whilst this is a good decision, those granted asylum should be encouraged and empowered to learn English, gain skills, get a job and integrate in to society. Both sides, yours and mine, have a responsibility in promoting this.


  3. Hopefully the position has nowe been clarified once and for all in the case of ZN (Afghanistan) and Others v Entry Clearance Officer (Karachi)

    In the reasons for judgment the Court said:

    The fact that British citizenship has been granted to the sponsor does not change the fact that the sponsor is a person who has been granted asylum.

    1. The full citation of ZN is

      ZN (Afghanistan) (FC) and Others (Appellants) v Entry Clearance Officer (Karachi)
      (Respondent) and one other action [2010] UKSC 21

      12 May 2010