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European authorities must allow refugees to move between European Union nations so that they can be with unaccompanied minor children, the bloc’s top court ruled Tuesday.

Sitting as a grand chamber, the European Court of Justice released its decision in a case, which involved a Syrian refugee who was granted asylum in Austria but who wants to be united with a daughter who is a minor and without a parent in Belgium. Another adult daughter also lives in Belgium.

The high court said a minor child’s best interests must be regarded in the context of EU human rights and asylum laws.

The court said in a news release, “Family unity must be maintained where the applicant is the father of a child who is an unaccompanied minor, who has been granted with protection in another European Union state.”

Whereas, in other cases not involving unaccompanied minors, EU states can look at denying refugees the possibility to move between the states, the court added.

The ruling was more restrictive as compared to an advisory opinion issued last September by Advocate General Priit Pikamae, an Estonian legal adviser at the Court of Justice, that applied a more refugee-friendly approach to the question of refugees moving between nations to be with the families. In his opinion, Pikamae saw family unification as being important not only in cases related to unaccompanied children.

At the centre of this dispute, the Syrian refugee arrived in Europe among hundreds of thousands of Syrians who fled a devastating civil war in their home nation and were given asylum in Europe. Court documents did not include the Syrian national’s personal details- including his name and age- but said he arrived in Austria after travelling through Libya and Turkey.

Meanwhile, his daughters also fled Syria, got in Belgium in early 2016 and were provided with asylum there in December. After their arrival in Belgium, he moved there to be with his daughters.

But Belgian authorities refused to give him any refugee status in Belgium as Austria had already given him protection.


- A word from our sposor -

EU court says Syrian refugees must be allowed to meet their unaccompanied children