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Separated children who reach the age of 18 during asylum procedure hold right to family reunification

13 April 2018

On 12 April 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a judgment on the right of family reunification of separated children. According to the Court, children who turn 18 during their asylum procedures must still be granted the right to family reunification as though they were children.

Short background of the case
The case concerns an Eritrean girl, who was 17 years old when she applied for asylum in the Netherlands and 18 years old when she received her asylum status. She subsequently applied for reunification with her parents. This application was rejected because the Dutch authorities were of the opinion that she should not be considered an 'separated child' anymore. The district court of the Hague in the Netherlands asked preliminary questions to the CJEU. The CJEU was asked to decide which moment in time is decisive in order to be considered a 'separated child': the date of the application for family reunification or the date of the asylum application.   

Moment of submission asylum application is decisive
In its judgment, the Court has ruled that the moment a separated child applies for asylum should be decisive. According to the CJEU "nationals of non-EU countries and stateless persons who are below the age of 18 at the moment of their entry into the territory of a European Member State and of the introduction of their asylum application in that state and who, in the course of the asylum procedure, attain the age of majority and thereafter are recognised as having refugee status" can be qualified as 'minors'. 

The CJEU noted that, in general, asylum applicants have no influence on the duration of the asylum procedure. It may depend on the complexity of the case, the workload of the national authorities and political choices of Member States. Taking the date of the application for family reunification as the relevant moment would fail to encourage Member States to prioritise cases of separated children. Also, separated children would then not be able to foresee whether they will have the right to reunify with their parents, which might undermine legal certainty.  

Taking the date of the asylum application enables identical treatment and foreseeability for all separated children. However, a separated child should apply for family reunification within three months after he or she has received refugee status. This prevents that separated children could rely on their status as 'separated child' for an unlimited period of time.

Separated Children in Europe Programme (SCEP) - coordinated by Defence for Children The Netherlands - PO BOX 11103 - 2301 EC - Leiden - 0031 (0)71 516 09 80 - [email protected]