A Syrian refugee family is asking Justice Minister Helen McEntee to use her ministerial discretion to allow them to “rescue” their daughter and her young family, who are currently in a Malaysian detention center.
Mahmud Snunu, his wife Mona and six of their children – most of whom are now adults – arrived in Ireland from Greece in December 2016 as part of the Irish refugee protection program. They are now Irish citizens and live in Co. Carlow, where they run a number of barbershops.
However, her daughter Nouralhuda (24) is in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport detention center with her three children Ahmet (7), Mohamed (5) and Rital (2). They are being held separately from their husband Hussin Ibrahim in the same center and face deportation to Syria.
The parents explain that they and their seven children, including then 16-year-old Nouralhuda, fled Aleppo in northern Syria in February 2014, as the Syrian civil war raged, and went to Turkey with thousands of others. There they were granted temporary protection, which gave them security but no access to citizenship or long-term integration into Turkish society.
In 2016, the family traveled by dinghy to Lesbos, Greece, where they were identified by the United Nations as refugees for resettlement in Ireland.
The year before, Nouralhuda had married Hussin, whom she had known in Aleppo. They stayed in Turkey, the family said, to ensure that the family could continue to live in them if the people traveling to Greece drowned. They tried several times to follow them to Greece but failed.
In February this year, after the severe earthquake and amid growing anti-Syrian sentiment in Turkey, Nouralhuda and her family wanted to return to Ireland.
“A person who smuggles people into Europe and lives in Turkey told them he could take them to Ireland if they went to Malaysia first,” one of Nouralhuda’s brothers told the Irish Times.
They were stopped at Kuala Lumpur airport in May as they tried to board a plane to Qatar with fake UAE passports, from where they planned to travel to Ireland. United Arab Emirates citizens do not require a visa to enter Ireland, while Syrian passport holders do.
Since Malaysia is not a signatory to the Geneva Refugee Convention, the family was arrested. Authorities began the legal process to deport him to Syria. The Snunu family insists Syria is not safe for them. Her son-in-law faces arrest and possible death for fleeing forced conscription in 2014, while Nouralhuda’s entire family is in Ireland.
The family applied to be a sponsor to bring her to Ireland on the grounds of family reunification, but was rejected in September mainly on the grounds that Nouralhuda was an adult and therefore did not fall within the criteria of immediate family, and because she was unfit , to demonstrate this ability to support them. You have filed an appeal.
Mona breaks down in tears as one of her sons, through an interpreter, describes how desperate the family is, knowing that they are recognized as refugees by the United Nations, that Nouralhuda and her family have been recognized as in need of protection by the Turkish authorities, and They are still threatened with deportation to Syria. When asked how he is doing, Mahmud says: “A piece of my heart is missing.”
Independent Senator Tom Clonan, who advocates for the family, describes the Irish immigration authorities’ approach as “overly bureaucratic”.
Other reasons for denying family reunification included inconsistencies in the English spelling of the family’s Arabic surname in various documents; Failure to translate WhatsApp messages between Nouralhuda and her family, necessary to establish a family connection, into English; and failure to file birth and marriage certificates. The family says some were left behind in Syria.
A spokeswoman for the Malaysian Embassy in Ireland said: “The Malaysian government has not yet carried out any deportations [the family] due to the numerous inquiries received from members of the Snunu/Ibrahim family in Ireland and from Senator Tom Clonan’s office.
“However, they have overstayed their time in Malaysia and the Malaysian authorities have been very cooperative and responsive to every request from the family. Actually, they should have been deported to Syria… Our further action will depend on the outcome of the visa application [to] The [Irish] Ministry of Justice.”
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the case.
As of November 2, 13,984 family reunification visas for 61 nationalities have been granted this year and 1,603 have been rejected. During the same period, 347 appeals were successful and 147 were rejected.