R.X. was a Somali woman granted refugee status in Ireland in January 2006. She applied for family reunification with her three children, her mother, Q.M.A., and her sister, C.X.M. Following DNA testing, the children were granted visas to come to Ireland, but the applications in respect of Q.M.A. and C.X.M. were refused. R.X. submitted evidence that her mother and sister were dependent on remittances and that her mother’s health had deteriorated severely and that she had lost her sight. The Ministerial refusal was confirmed following an internal departmental review. The reasons given for the refusal were that R.X. was ‘not in a position to support the family members applied for’ and that that Q.M.A and C.X.M. did not qualify as dependent family members under s. 18(4) of the Refugee Act 1996.
Section 18(4) of the 1996 Act provides:
(a) The Minister may, at his or her discretion, grant permission to a dependent member of the family of a refugee to enter and reside in the State ….
(b) In paragraph (a), ‘dependent member of the family’, in relation to a refugee, means any grandparent, parent, brother, sister, child, grandchild, ward or guardian of the refugee who is dependent on the refugee or is suffering from a mental or physical disability to such extent that it is not reasonable for him or her to maintain himself or herself fully.’
The Applicants obtained the leave of the High Court to challenge the Ministerial refusal by way of judicial review on the grounds that the Minister had applied the wrong test in assessing whether Q.M.A. and C.X.M were dependent on R.X. and that his decision that they were not dependent family members was unreasonable and inconsistent with R.X.’s Constitutional and Convention rights.
In delivering judgment on the substantive application for judicial review, the High Court (Hogan J.) dismissed the Minister’s preliminary objection that he had no power to undertake an internal review, finding that nothing in the scheme of s. 18 prevented the Minister receiving additional submissions or further evidence following receipt of the Refugee Applications Commissioner’s report on the application for family reunification. The High Court held that R.X.’s mother and sister could be considered family members for the purposes of Article 41 of the Constitution and that the facts showed that they were in fact dependent on her. The Court found that in asking whether R.X. would be able to support her mother and sister in Ireland, the Minister had applied the wrong test, and that the correct test was whether they were dependent on her at the time of the making of the application. The Court further concluded that the Minister’s decision was unreasonable because the Minister offered no explanation as to how his conclusion could possibly have been arrived at in the teeth of the available evidence of dependency and serious illness. For these reasons, the High Court quashed the Ministerial decision and remitted it for reconsideration.