CJEU: Judgment in Case C-550/16 A. and S., 12 April 2018

Thursday, April 12, 2018

On 12 April 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled in case C-550/16 A. and S., which concerned a request for a preliminary ruling from the Dutch Court of The Hague on the right to family reunification of unaccompanied children who reach the age of majority after lodging an asylum application.

First, the CJEU found that the Family Reunification Directive pursues not only the objective of promoting family reunification and granting protection to third-country nationals, but it also specifically seeks to guarantee an additional protection for refugees who are unaccompanied children. In this direction, Article 10(3)(a) of the Family Reunification Directive imposes a precise positive obligation, to which a clearly defined right corresponds. It requires Member States to authorise the family reunification of first-degree relatives in the ascending line of the child, without any margin of discretion.

Secondly, the Court ruled that, while the Family Reunification Directive does not precise the moment at which the person concerned should be “below the age of eighteen”, this question can be answered by reference to the general scheme and objective of that Directive, taking into account the regulatory context in which it is found and the general principles of EU law. The CJEU recalled that recognition of refugee status is a declaratory act, which means that, after the application for international protection is submitted, any third-country national or stateless person who fulfils the material conditions laid down by the recast Qualification Directive has a subjective right to be recognised as having refugee status, and that is so even before the formal decision is adopted in that regard.

To make the right to family reunification depend upon the moment at which the competent national authority formally adopts an asylum decision recognising the refugee status of the person concerned and, therefore, on how quickly or slowly the application for international protection is processed by that authority, would call into question the effectiveness of that provision and would go against the aim of that Directive and the principles of equal treatment and legal certainty.

Therefore, Article 2(f) of the Family Reunification Directive, read in conjunction with Article 10(3)(a) thereof, must be interpreted as meaning that a third-country national or stateless person who is below the age of 18 at the time of his or her entry into the territory of a Member State and of the introduction of his or her asylum application in that State, but who, in the course of the asylum procedure, attains the age of majority and is thereafter granted refugee status must be regarded as a ‘minor’ for the purposes of that provision.


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Best interest of the child
Family reunification