Key facts of the case:
Reference for a preliminary ruling — Right to family reunification — Directive 2003/86/EC — Article 2(f) — Definition of ‘unaccompanied minor’ — Article 10(3)(a) — Right of a refugee to family reunification with his parents — Refugee below the age of 18 at the time of entry into the Member State and at the time of application for asylum, but over 18 at the time of the decision granting asylum and of his application for family reunification — Relevant date for assessing ‘minor’ status of the person concerned
Outcome of the case:
On those grounds, the Court (Second Chamber) hereby rules:
Article 2(f) of Directive 2003/86/EC of 22 September 2003 on the right to family reunification, read in conjunction with Article 10(3)(a) thereof, must be interpreted as meaning that a third-country national or stateless person who is below the age of 18 at the time of his or her entry into the territory of a Member State and of the introduction of his or her asylum application in that State, but who, in the course of the asylum procedure, attains the age of majority and is thereafter granted refugee status must be regarded as a ‘minor’ for the purposes of that provision.
4) Recitals 2, 4, 6 and 8 to 10 of Directive 2003/86 are worded as follows:
‘(2) Measures concerning family reunification should be adopted in conformity with the obligation to protect the family and respect family life enshrined in many instruments of international law. This Directive respects the fundamental rights and observes the principles recognised in particular in Article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms [signed in Rome on 4 November 1950] and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
17) Recital 33 of Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection (OJ 2013 L 180, p. 60) provides: ‘The best interests of the child should be a primary consideration of Member States when applying this Directive, in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the Charter) and the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In assessing the best interest of the child, Member States should in particular take due account of the minor’s well-being and social development, including his or her background.’
58) Moreover, instead of prompting national authorities to treat applications for international protection from unaccompanied minors urgently in order to take account of their particular vulnerability, a possibility which is already explicitly offered by Article 31(7)(b) of Directive 2013/32, such an interpretation could have the opposite effect, frustrating the objective pursued both by that directive and by Directives 2003/86 and 2011/95 of ensuring that, in accordance with Article 24(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the best interests of the child is in practice a primary consideration for Member States in the application of those directives.