Blaise Baheten Metock and Others v Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (2008) C-127/08 (known as the "Metock case") was a ground-breaking European Court of Justice (ECJ) case of major political significance, especially in Ireland and Denmark. It dealt with the scope and applicability of Directive 2004/38 ("the Citizenship Directive") to member states' family unification rules for their migrant citizens. Citizenship of the European Union was established by Article 20 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and the Citizenship Directive 2004/38 elaborates the right of Union citizens and their family members to move and reside freely in the territory of a member state, consolidating previous Directives dealing with the right to move and reside within the European Community (EC).
It is a logical consequence of the right to free movement that migrant citizens can move their family from one member state to another. Not to allow this would deter them from moving and thus impede their right to free movement. But it is not immediately clear that migrant citizens should have the right to bring their family into a member state when the family members are entering the European Union (EU) for the first time. The Citizenship Directive 2004/38 imposes no condition that family members can only join on first entry if they are already resident within the European Union. Nevertheless the Irish legislation implementing the directive required the family member to demonstrate lawful residence within the European Union prior to first entry. Metock clarified that it was not lawful to maintain such a requirement. A consequence was that in some member states, such as Denmark, migrant citizens possessed more rights to family reunification then their own nationals who had not exercised their right to free movement by taking up residence in another member state.
A non-EU national is a national of a country not in the European Union. In Metock the Court ruled definitively that national rules making the right of residence of non-EU national spouses of Union citizens resident in a member state but not possessing its nationality under the Citizenship Directive 2004/38 conditional on prior lawful residence in another member state were unlawful. It also ruled against national restrictions on when and where their marriage took place and how the non-EU national entered the host member state.
Blaise Baheten Metock, a national of Cameroon, arrived in Ireland on 23 June 2006 and applied for asylum. His application was definitively refused on 28 February 2007. Hanette Eugenie Ngo Ikeng, born a national of Cameroon, acquired United Kingdom nationality. She had resided and worked in Ireland since late 2006. Metock and Ngo Ikeng met in Cameroon in 1994 and had been in a relationship since then. They had two children together, one born in 1998 and the other in 2006. They were married in Ireland on 12 October 2006. On 6 November 2006, Metock applied in Ireland for a residence card as the spouse of a Union citizen working and residing in Ireland. The application was refused by decision of the Minister for Justice on 28 June 2007, on the grounds that Metock did not satisfy the condition of prior lawful residence in another member state.
Metock, Ngo Ikeng and their children brought proceedings against that decision. They were joined by three other non-EU national applicants. Ten member states expressed an interest in the case. The Court ruled in favour of the applicants on the grounds in the first place that no provision of the Citizenship Directive 2004/38 makes its application dependent upon previous lawful residence, and secondly that European Community (and not individual member states) legislature had the competence to regulate the first entry to the European Union of family members of a Union citizen who has exercised his right to free movement, and incidentally making a brief reference to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights that enshrines the right to respect for private and family life.
The decision effectively over-ruled an earlier case Secretary of State for the Home Department v Hacene Akrich (2003) C-109/01 that the Irish government had relied on. The Akrich case involved an individual who had entered the UK without authorisation, and was twice deported from the United Kingdom. The individual came into the country a third time without authorisation and married a British citizen. He was soon thereafter deported to Dublin, where his wife was working, where he remained for six months. Following this, he attempted to return to the United Kingdom where his wife had secured employment. In Akrich, in direct contrast to the later Metock case, the ECJ held that the initial unauthorised entrance could be used by national authorities to prevent someone from claiming European rights of establishment.
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