On 3 October 2014, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) sitting as a Grand Chamber, ruled against Dutch authorities in a human rights dispute involving a Surinamese mother of three children. The ECHR were considering a refusal to allow a woman to settle in the Netherlands with her family, namely, her husband and three children.
In the case of Jeunesse v. The Netherlands (Application no. 12738/10), the ECHR declared that the Netherlands decision to refuse a residence permit to the Surinamese mother of three children born in the country, breached their right to respect for their family life.
Jeunesse v. The Netherlands: Facts of the Case
The Applicant, Ms Meriam Margriet Jeunesse, is a Surinamese national, who was born in 1967 and is currently living in The Hague. In March 1987, she met and started a relationship with her now husband, who like the Applicant was born and had always lived in Suriname. The couple had acquired nationality in 1975 when Suriname gained its independence.
On 19 October 1991, the Applicant’s husband travelled to Netherlands where in 1993, he was granted Netherlands nationality. The Applicant then unsuccessfully applied for visas to settle in the Netherlands six times until she obtained entry in 1997. The ECHR’s judgement explains that these requests were rejected because “her sponsor was insufficiently solvent, had failed to sign the required affidavit of support or had failed to supply sufficient information required for the assessment of the visa request.”
In 1999, the couple married and their first child was born in 2000. The Applicant then applied for a grant of a residence permit, based on grounds of special and individual circumstances, four times but each application was rejected due to non-compliance with the immigration process. During her time in the Netherlands, the Applicant gave birth to three children, all of whom are Dutch nationals.
Jeunesse v. The Netherlands: ECHR Judgement
On 3 October 2014, the ECHR held by a majority that there had been “a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The court took into consideration the following:
- Apart from the Applicant, all members of her family were Dutch nationals entitled to enjoy family life with each other in the Netherlands;
- The Applicant had been living in the Netherlands for more than 16 years (and the Netherlands authorities had been aware of this);
- That the Applicant had no criminal record and that settling in Suriname would entail a degree of hardship for the family.
The court further considered that the Netherlands authorities had not paid enough attention to the impact on Jeunesse’s children of the authorities’ decision to refuse her request for a residence permit. In paragraph 119 of the judgement, the ECHR stated:
“Noting that the applicant takes care of the children on a daily basis, it is obvious that their interests are best served by not disrupting their present circumstances by a forced relocation of their mother from the Netherlands to Suriname or by a rupturing of their relationship with her as a result of future separation. In this connection, the Court observes that the applicant’s husband provides for the family by working full-time in a job that includes shift work. He is, consequently, absent from the home on some evenings. The applicant – being the mother and homemaker – is the primary and constant carer of the children who are deeply rooted in the Netherlands of which country – like their father – they are nationals. The materials in the case file do not disclose a direct link between the applicant’s children and Suriname, a country where they have never been.”
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