UK Home Office win appeal; yet Safe Passage arrangements not in place

Royal Courts of JusticeToday UK Home Office have won an appeal that has overturned a court ruling in January when a judge allowed – for the first time – three 16 year olds and a man in his twenties living in the Jungle camp in Calais could be reunited with relatives already living in the UK while their asylum claims were processed. The BBC explain that:

The four had fled the Syrian civil war, saying they had witnessed traumatic events including bombings and death, while two were detained and tortured by the Syrian government.

The claimants were immediately reunited with their family members and around fifty refugees have been allowed to enter the UK since the case. However the Home Office lodged an appeal arguing that the EU’s Dublin III Regulation means that “all refugees should apply for asylum in the first EU member state they reach”.

Those who have a relative living legally in another European country do have a legal entitlement to then apply to seek asylum there, but only if they have already been processed by the first country.

None of the four Syrians has been able to make effective asylum claims in France – but they all have adult brothers who are legally settled in the UK as recognised refugees.

The Court of Appeal said that bypassing the Dublin III regulation (in this case, allowing the four to enter the UK to apply for asylum rather awaiting progress in France) “can only be justified in an especially compelling case”.

Following today’s ruling, the BBC report that “the refugees, who are already in the UK, will not face deportation”.

However, campaigners say the ruling will have further implications for other refugee children.

The Bishop of Barking Peter Hill is spokesperson for Citizens UK. He reacted to the appeal ruling:

“We are disappointed that the Home Office’s appeal has been upheld; relying on volunteers and lawyers to identify refugee children who may be eligible for family reunification, and then relying on those lawyers to process the claims child-by-child and case-by-case is inefficient, costly to the tax-payer, and hugely stressful for the children.

“Citizens UK is calling on the Home Office to establish a functional system for identifying refugee children with potential claims to family reunification in the UK.”

Given the long timeframes for asylum requests to be processed, it is likely that children – as well as adults – will continue to decide to take matters into their own hands and risk crossing the English Channel with traffickers and by hiding in freight vehicles rather than through safe, legal routes. In their letter to Churches Together in Britain Ireland member churches, the participants in May’s delegation to visit refugees and refugee projects in Greece recommended support for the inter-agency campaign for Safe Passage for refugees. [See the Joint Public Issues Team’s Made For Goodness report (PDF) for more details.]

“At the current rate of reunification it will take a year before all the children in Calais are reunited with their families, this is forcing children to take matters into their own hands; stowing away in lorries or vans.

“We know of two boys who have died in the last 12 months trying to reach their families in the UK. The Government has a legal and a moral responsibility to ensure that refugee children who have close family members in the UK are granted safe passage.”

Image: Anthony M.