A NIGERIAN mother of an Irish child has won the right to live and work in Ireland after a six-year legal battle with immigration authorities.
The Department of Justice wrote to Caroline Hurley this week quashing a deportation order issued against her and giving her leave to remain in Ireland for a period of three years.
Ms Hurley’s case came to prominence late last year when she lost an appeal against her deportation order in the High Court.
She appealed the decision to deport her on the basis that she married an Irish citizen, Gerard Hurley, with who she had a baby daughter called Abigail, while she was claiming asylum in Ireland.
Ms Hurley’s six-year-old son Samuel, who is not an Irish citizen, was also given leave to remain in the State.
Gerard and Caroline Hurley gave an interview last December to The Irish Times following the judgment as part of a campaign to have the deportation order quashed.
“Any day now the Garda could arrive at my door, separate me from my family and put me on a plane to Nigeria. It is like living with a death sentence over your head,” she told the newspaper.
The decision by the Department of Justice this week to grant leave to remain to Ms Hurley follows a landmark judgment at the European Court of Justice in February. The ruling found the non-EU parents of a child with EU citizenship must be allowed to live and work in that EU state.
This test case arose in relation to two Colombian nationals, Ruiz Zambrano and his wife, who were refused asylum in Belgium. While awaiting a decision on their application, the woman gave birth to two children who acquired Belgian nationality.
Since the ruling, more than 1,000 parents of Irish children who are currently living in the State but have no right of residency have applied to the Department of Justice for leave to remain. Early last month, 181 of these cases had already been granted by the State, while six had been refused.
Residents Against Racism, a non-governmental organisation which lobbies on behalf of asylum seekers and which had taken up the Hurleys’ case, said yesterday it was delighted at the decision to grant leave to remain.
“It was a really dreadful position that this family were put in by the Government. Gerard’s health was bad, and it was disgraceful that the whole thing took so long to sort out. We are absolutely delighted that it is finally at an end for this family and they can get on with their lives in Ireland,” said Rosanna Flynn, spokeswoman for the organisation.
Sue Conlan, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council, welcomed the pragmatic and humane approach taken in the case.
“We hope that a similar approach will be taken when the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill is being reconsidered in the new Dáil term,” she said.
Case study: The Hurley family
“WHEN GERARD opened the letter last Wednesday, my first question was, did they also give my six-year-old son Samuel leave to remain. When he said they had, I just broke down in tears,” says Caroline Hurley.
“The last few years have been very stressful for us all, with the threat of me being deported and our family being separated.
“I plan to get a job looking after old people. I recently completed training and now I’ve been granted leave to remain I can take up a job for the first time since I arrived in Ireland as an asylum seeker,” says Caroline.
Life for the family has been very difficult over the past few years as Gerard has been living on disability allowance and Caroline could not work.
“Caroline will now be able to work or open her own business. Hopefully now she’ll get to use all the training and diplomas that she studied for in the past few years,” says Gerard.
“She’ll also be able to travel abroad on holidays or visit family because she is legally resident,” says Gerard.
“The strain has been terrible while we fought our battle to stay together in Ireland. At moments I feared Caroline would harm herself because she was so depressed.
“Life for asylum seekers in Ireland, many of who are women and children, is very difficult.
“We would really like to thank all the NGOs, church groups, lawyers and individuals who supported us over the past year.”
(The Irish Times, 13th August 20110