‘Have a heart and let us bring our families here’: Change to reunion laws urged

‘Have A Heart And Let Us Bring Our Families Here’: Change To Reunion Laws Urged
People take part in a Families Belong Together Campaign group demonstration outside the Department of Justice in Dublin, against the current family reunion policy that denies them the right to have their nearest and dearest with them in Ireland, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

A family reunion policy that means essential workers must earn a minimum amount before their spouse or children can come to Ireland has been called “heartbreaking”.

Parents and workers gathered outside the Department of Justice on Wednesday to call for an update on the review into the family reunion policy.


Under the current family reunion policy, essential workers must wait 12 months before they can apply to bring their family to Ireland.

Families Belong Together protest
Nursing home worker Shiji Joseph, from India, speaks during a Families Belong Together campaign group demonstration (Brian Lawless/PA)

This application process can take up to 12 months, under which workers need to earn a minimum amount of 30,000 euros to reunite with their spouse and above that again for each child.


Shiji Joseph, who is originally from India and works as a nursing home carer, said it was “deeply painful” for her not to have her husband and children with her in Ireland.

“We are appealing with all of our hearts to Minister (for Justice Helen) McEntee, as a mother herself, to remove the barriers separating us from our families,” she said on the steps outside the Department of Justice.

“I am a carer myself, I take care of elderly ladies. I want to take care of my family here too. It is so hard to return to an empty home at the end of a duty shift.

“I would love nothing more than to see my kids every day.


“I should not have to choose between providing for my family and being with them. It is heartbreaking not having my family here. Minister McEntee, if you can hear us today, please have a heart and let us bring our families here.”

Joice Thomas, whose wife and children Johan, six, and Hannah, three, are still in Kerala, India, said it has been two years since he has seen his family.

Families Belong Together protest
Joice Thomas, from India, holding a photograph of his children, takes part in a Families Belong Together demonstration outside the Department of Justice in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)


Mr Thomas, who is a nursing home worker, said he has tried to bring his family over but it has proved “very difficult”.

Nurudeen Oyewole, a 40-year-old father of three and a spokesperson for the Families Belong Together campaign group, said he will not reach the salary requirements “any time soon”.

Mr Oyewole, who is a social worker living in the Dublin area, has been in Ireland for five years.

His 10-year-old son, nine-year-old daughter and four-year-old son and their mother are still in Nigeria.


Asked what he would need to earn to be reunited with his family, he said: “I need to definitely earn more than 40,000 euro in a year before I could stand a chance to bring my family with me.”

“Many of us also work in very essential areas of Irish society, there are people who work as healthcare workers, that work with older adults and looking after their wellbeing, looking after people living with one challenge or another.

Families Belong Together protest
Nurudeen Oyewole, 40, a Dublin area social worker from Nigeria, at the Families Belong Together demonstration (Brian Lawless/PA)

“You have people working in the food industry, you have people working in the hospitality industry, we have those who are working in the construction industry,” Mr Oyewole said, calling these industries “critical” for the Irish economy.

He called for the 12-month wait before people can apply for reunification and the 12-month processing time to be scrapped.

Asked if he thought the process to be reunited with his family would be easier, Mr Oyewole said “absolutely”.

He said: “I came in as a student, (I thought if I) demonstrated to government that I am paying taxes, that I have a full-time job, that I am a law-abiding citizen, that I would be allowed to bring in my family.

“It was only later that I was told there is a general work permit and a critical work permit.”

Mr Oyewole added: “I know that Irish society is one that really (values) family bonding and relationships, so it’s really difficult.


“Sometimes you walk around, your mind races back to your family.

“You see other people with their kids and you think ‘I wish that was me with my family’.

“I don’t think we should be put in a situation where we have to choose between our work and our family.”

Neil Bruton, campaign manager with the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), said it was “unclear” why the policy had been under review for 12 months “when people are desperate to have their families with them”.

“Minister McEntee has the power to reunite families by scrapping these deeply unjust rules. People can’t wait, she must act now.

“Scrap the salary check. Scrap the waiting period.

“Enable all workers to have their family with them from the start.”

The Department of Justice has been contacted for comment.

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