253. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has satisfied himself with the one year time limit for applications of family reunification under the International Protection Bill 2015; and his views on whether an amendment allowing for more flexibility with time restraints could be warranted. [5637/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The International Protection Act 2015, which was fully commenced on 31 December 2016, brought about significant reforms to our international protection process. The most significant of these was the introduction of a single application procedure. By replacing the old multi-layered and sequential process, the single application procedure will bring certainty at a much earlier stage to those who qualify for protection. In turn, this will provide for timely reunification with immediate family members to support those granted international protection to begin their new lives here in Ireland.
The 2015 Act provides for the family reunification of immediate family members (spouse, civil partner and minor children) in line with the definition of family members in the EU Family Reunification Directive (in which Ireland does not participate). In terms of both the application time limits and the economic conditions on sponsors, the provisions in the International Protection Act are less restrictive than in many other EU Member States. In addition, unlike some EU Member States, our family reunification provisions apply equally to beneficiaries of both types of international protection – refugee status and subsidiary protection status. The new regime for family reunification under the Act is only currently getting its first cases and I have no plans to change the time limits provided for in the Act.
It also remains open to me to exercise my discretion under the INIS Non-EEA Policy Document on Family Reunification to waive the economic conditions for sponsors applying for extended family members. I will continue to examine such applications on humanitarian grounds on a case-by case basis. In addition, the new Family Reunification Humanitarian Admissions Programme (FHRAP) announced late last year will see, over a two year period, up to 530 immediate family members from established conflict zones, including Syria, that fall outside the scope of the international Protection Act 2015 come to Ireland as part of our overall commitment to accept 4,000 persons under the IRPP.