BIRTH CERTIFICATES, FAMILY REGISTRIES, AND PAPERWORK…OH, MY!
I have worked with the refugee community in Durham pretty intimately for the past two years, but my placement at Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, has already expanded my knowledge on a topic that I thought I knew a lot about. My understanding about refugees and resettlement has come from personal interactions and research on pretty general topics. Nasc on the other hand has very intimate interactions with their clients, but they know the very specific details on the law and how it affects immigrants. This is a perspective on migration and resettlement that I had never been exposed to before this week. And let me tell you that it has already created so many questions in my mind and has complicated my understanding of something that I thought I knew very intimately.
Right now, Ireland is finishing its first round of IHAP applications. IHAP stands for Irish Refugee Protection Programme Humanitarian Admission Programme 2, which is Ireland’s new process for family reunification. Meaning, if you live in Ireland as a refugee or under subsidiary protection and you come from UNHCR’s list of top ten major source countries of refugees, you can apply for your family members to come live with you. The deadline for the first round of IHAP is June 30th, so Nasc has been flooded with clients trying to fill out this application and making sure they have all the right paperwork.
My knowledge coming in on legal complications during the resettlement process was very limited, and it still is, but I knew it was a mess. I knew that it was extremely difficult and nuanced, but the first meeting I sat in on opened my eyes to a whole lot of bureaucracy that I wasn’t ready for. The requirements for IHAP are extensive. The requirements are split into two categories: one, the proposer and two, the proposed beneficiaries. The proposer is the resident of Ireland and he or she needs one of the three items, 1) a certified copy of his or her Irish Residence Permit card, 2) a certified copy of all pages of his or her Irish Passport, or 3) a certified copy of his or her Certificate of Naturalization. This is the easy part, but the amount of people who came in with a copy but it wasn’t certified, or the solicitor had made a mistake on the certification was great.
Now comes the tricky part. The proposer needs to have the following on behalf of the beneficiary:
1) Certified color copy and certified translation of passport (all pages), national identity card, a valid Travel Document or proof of registration with UNHCR.
2) Certified color copies and certified translations of any documents that show evidence of a family connection such as marriage certificates or birth certificates.
3) Two color passport-sized photographs for each proposed beneficiary. The name of the beneficiary is to be written clearly in block capitals on the back of each photograph.
4) In the case of a minor beneficiary (person under 18 years of age), who is the child of the proposer (see eligible categories), a letter of consent from the other parent (if applicable) granting permission for the child to travel to and reside in the State will be required.
5) In the case of a vulnerable close relative who is under the age of 18, sufficient evidence that the proposer has parental responsibility for the minor will be required.
Getting all of these for my own sister would be difficult enough, but imagine you are trying to get your niece’s information from Syria. Getting these documents costs money and a lot of time, which not all of these proposers can afford. Without all of these documents, the application is automatically dismissed, so every piece is crucial.
On one hand, I get why Ireland has so many requirements to prove family relation and personal responsibility for the beneficiaries. The Ministry of Justice doesn’t want people abusing the system or bringing in people that aren’t in fact a part of their family. These are all very valid reasons, but sitting in those meetings watching the clients faces change when they realize the amount of work they are going to have to do really makes me wonder what would be so with a few more migrants in Ireland? At the same time there are only a very limited number of spots that Ireland has to offer, so what would be so bad with less harsh requirements if the number of people will still be the same?
As an individual who is thinking going into law as a career, my few days at Nasc have shown me how difficult the law can be for people who are at the mercy of it. Everyone has to follow the law, but when someone’s livelihood, safety, and existence is dependent on a plastic card that could be taken away, the meaning of the law has a whole new definition. If nothing, I am just so appreciative of Nasc’s work because without it what would these people do? I am sure they would try and figure the law out by themselves, but the inaccessibility of the language and the requirements would certainly make them stumble as it has done to me. This week has made me even more curious how law is intertwined in everything that we do, but also has made me question who it is helping.