By Silvia Bartolini
On 12 April 2018 the Court of Justice of the EU (hereinafter, the “Court”) delivered a key ruling in A & S (case C-550/16), which hopefully marks a conscious step towards the creation of an effective EU system for the protection of children in migration.
As the Commission points out, the protection of children in all stages of migration should be “first and foremost about upholding European values of respect for human rights, dignity and solidarity. It is also about enforcing European Union law and respecting the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and international human rights law on the rights of the child” (COM (2017) 211 final). Yet their vulnerability is often denied or forgotten by Member States, especially in the mist of the so-called ‘migratory crisis’.
A & S brings forward the issue as to whether a Member State can deny both the status of being a child and the corresponding protection under EU law to a young refugee who entered its territory as an unaccompanied minor and turned eighteen while waiting for their application for international protection to be processed. In particular, could Member States be left to ‘use’ delays in the processing of children’s applications for the refugee status as a mechanism to thwart their fundamental right to family reunification?
In its children’s rights centred ruling, the Court made clear that Article 10 (3) (a) of Family Reunification Directive (Directive 2003/86/EC) creates an enforceable right to unaccompanied minor refugees to be reunited with their parents; a right which cannot be thwarted by the ‘negligent’ behaviour of the national authorities. In particular, an unaccompanied child who has turned eighteen while waiting for their refugee status application to be processed should still be considered as an ‘unaccompanied minor’ and therefore be entitled to a right to family reunification if their application is successful. Continue reading