Refugee un­able to bring fam­ily to Ire­land be­cause State views mar­riage as polyg­a­mous

Syr­ian man wants to bring his wife, twin sons and step­son to Ire­land

The Irish Times - - Home News - SORCHA POLLAK

A Syr­ian man who came to Ire­land in 2015 has been re­fused fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion with his wife and sons be­cause his mar­riage is viewed as polyg­a­mous un­der Ir­ish law.

Muhanad Jaz­mati has ap­pealed the Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to re­ject his ap­pli­ca­tion to bring his fam­ily to Ire­land, say­ing the only rea­son he came here was so his wife and sons could fol­low.

“I came here to give my fam­ily a bet­ter life. I did not come to just find a job and drink cof­fee. We can­not go back to Syria and I can­not stay in Turkey be­cause I have Ir­ish travel doc­u­ments now. What other op­tion do we have?”

Mr Jaz­mati and his wife Kinda were mar­ried in Novem­ber 2013 af­ter they met in the art cafe he ran in Damascus. It was Mr Jaz­mati’s sec­ond mar­riage; his first ended in early 2012 when he and his first wife sep­a­rated. He says they ap­peared be­fore a lo­cal judge to for­malise their sep­a­ra­tion and then ap­plied for di­vorce. How­ever, he mar­ried Kinda be­fore the di­vorce pa­pers from his first mar­riage had been cleared.

“To fin­ish the pa­pers took a lot of time and dur­ing the war it was very dif­fi­cult. My pre­vi­ous wife lives in an­other city which means she’d need to travel 10 hours and cross 25 check­points to get to Damascus for the pa­pers. There was too much dan­ger with the bomb­ing and shells.”

The vi­o­lence in Syria con­tin­ued to in­ten­sify and in 2015 Mr Jaz­mati de­cided to leave. “What re­ally pushed me to run was the worry for my fam­ily. If they stayed in Syria it would be a disas­ter. My wife said ‘you need to get out be­cause it’s a chance to take us away from here’.”

Refugee sta­tus

He left his preg­nant wife and trav­elled to Le­banon, Turkey and fi­nally Ire­land where he claimed asy­lum in Septem­ber 2015. Back in Syria, his wife gave birth to twins boys they named Jade and Jude. As soon as his refugee sta­tus was granted in Fe­bru­ary 2016, Mr Jaz­mati ap­plied for his wife, the twins and his step­son Nour (his wife Kinda’s son from a pre­vi­ous mar­riage) to join him. Three months later he was in­formed by the Depart­ment of Jus­tice that his m ar­riage was not recog­nised un­der Ir­ish law.

“They in­sisted it was a po­lyg­a­mist mar­riage in spite of the fact that I was di­vorced from my ex-wife in 2015. Me and my wife, we don’t fol­low polygamy, we are com­pletely against it. Polygamy for us is to live with two or more wives, but for the Ir­ish gov­ern­ment polygamy means pa­pers.”

Mr Jaz­mati ap­pealed the de­ci­sion and in 2017 his twin boys were ac­cepted but his wife and step­son were re­fused again.

But Mr Jaz­mati says his twin sons can­not come to Ire­land with­out their mother. “How can you sep­a­rate a mother from her sons? Does this mean ac­cord­ing to Ir­ish law I don’t have a wife now? Doesn’t my step­son have a fa­ther and broth­ers? Do I not have a fam­ily any­more?”

He has now brought the ap­peal to the High Court and has been await­ing a hear­ing date since Novem­ber 2017.

Prob­lems

Had Mr Jaz­mati sought asy­lum in the United King­dom he may not have faced prob­lems in re­unit­ing with his fam­ily. While polygamy is il­le­gal in the UK, as long as the mar­riage is recog­nised in the coun­try where it took place and prop­erly ex­e­cuted ac­cord­ing to the laws of that coun­try, the mar­riage is valid and the spouse is en­ti­tled to be re­united with one wife. The ap­pli­ca­tion is re­fused if the spouse ap­plies for a sec­ond wife to en­ter the coun­try. Sim­i­lar rules also ap­ply in Bel­gium, Fin­land, Ger­many, the Nether­lands and Nor­way.

Mr Jaz­mati’s wife left Syria shortly af­ter the twins were born and is now in Turkey with her three sons. “She speaks Ara­bic and English but she can’t speak Turk­ish. Some of Turk­ish so­ci­ety is not wel­com­ing to Syr­i­ans and she has been threat­ened. There is one neigh­bour who both­ers her all the time. When you are a woman liv­ing alone in that coun­try they think it’s easy to get you, to force you to say Yes.”

A spokesman for the Depart­ment of Jus­tice said the Min­is­ter was un­able to com­ment on Mr Jaz­mati’s case as it is cur­rently the sub­ject of le­gal proceedings.

The spokesman added that the Supreme Court had set out its po­si­tion on the mat­ter through its judge­ment in the 2017 HAH v SAA case which found that only the first mar­riage of a Le­banese man with two wives was valid. This rul­ing “clearly es­tab­lished that recog­ni­tion of an ac­tu­ally polyg­a­mous mar­riage ‘would be con­trary to a fun­da­men­tal con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ple and there­fore con­trary to pub­lic pol­icy’.

“There­fore it not pos­si­ble for the State to recog­nise any sec­ond or sub­se­quent mar­riages en­tered into while the mar­riage to a first spouse is in be­ing, and con­sid­ered valid un­der Ir­ish law.”

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They in­sisted it was a po­lyg­a­mist mar­riage in spite of the fact that I was di­vorced from my ex-wife in 2015. Me and my wife, we don’t fol­low polygamy

Muhanad Jaz­mati (left) whose wife Kinda, pic­tured with twin sons Jude and Jade (top) is not al­lowed to join him in Ire­land. Above: Muhanad’s step­son Nour with the twins

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