Home Office wins appeal against ruling allowing four vulnerable refugees into UK

The Home Office has won its appeal against a landmark ruling allowing four Syrian refugees living in the “Jungle” camp in Calais to come to Britain.

An immigration judge ruled in January that the three teenagers and 26-year-old man with mental health problems should be brought immediately to the UK and reunited with their families.

But while the Home Office is not seeking to deport the four Syrians, it appealed against the ruling because it feared it could set a legal precedent and undermine Britain’s control over its borders.

All four have been reunited with their families in various parts of the UK, two of them have been granted refugee status in Britain while the other two are still waiting for a decision to be made.

George Gabriel from Citizens UK, the charity that has represented the children, warned the ruling will lead to further delays and refugee children will be driven into the hands of people smugglers.

Under a law called Dublin III, asylum claims must be made in the first country the person reaches, but a child refugee can have their claim transferred to another country if they have relatives lawfully living there.

But lawyers for the Syrians argued the regulation was not working as not a single child had been brought to the UK from the Calais camp under the rule because of bureaucratic failings in France.

They demanded the British courts intervene to bring the four to Britain immediately, arguing that they faced “intolerable” conditions in the camp and they had an entitlement under the Article 8 right to a family life to be reunited with family in the UK.

The four Syrians were immediately brought to Britain and the decision was hailed by campaigners as a landmark ruling that could pave the way for many other unaccompanied minors to come to the UK from refugee camps in Europe.

But three Court of Appeal judges on Tuesday ruled in favour of the Home Office appeal against the ruling.

Criticising the decision, Mr Gabriel said: “When we brought this case, it was an enormous kick up the arse for the Government, and the system is now working better because 50 children have been brought to Britain since the case.

“But it means that charities like ours will have to continue identifying children one by one, taking them through a lengthy bureaucratic process as they have to wait to be reunited with their loved ones.

“Today is a great day for bureaucrats because it means that the letter of the process will have to be followed despite the clearly unacceptable wait this leaves refugee children facing.

“We fear this means many will take the situation into their own hands, choosing between people traffickers on the one hand and train tracks on the other.”

Handing down their judgment, Court of Appeal judges Lord Justice Moore-Bick, Lord Justice Longmore and Lord Justice Beatson stated that bypassing the Dublin III Regulation “can only be justified in an especially compelling case”.

It stated that given the evidence of the psychological trauma the four had experienced and testimony warning that their claims could take just under a year to process “the result the tribunal reached may have been justifiable”.

But it added: “I am, however, not entirely persuaded that, had the tribunal applied the correct test, it must inevitably have reached the same conclusion.

“In those circumstances, the appropriate course would normally have been to remit the matter to the tribunal for reconsideration.

“However…I have concluded that it would be inappropriate to take that course. I would therefore simply allow the appeal and make no further order.”

The ruling said the Home Office had sought the appeal not in order to deport the four Syrians, but to overturn it because of the legal repercussions it could usher in.

It stated that a barrister acting for the Home Office explained that “the appeal was necessary because the approach of the Upper Tribunal has potentially far-reaching and serious consequences for the ability of the United Kingdom to control its borders and for the integrity of the Dublin III system”.

The Home Office argued that the asylum claims should have been made in France and that, under Dublin III, they could then have been handed over to Britain.

The Bishop of Barking, Peter Hill, a spokesman for Citizens UK, said they are “disappointed” with the result which will leave refugee children relying on volunteers to help them come to Britain.

He said: “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. 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.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2016, All Rights Reserved. Picture – Dr Kaneez Shaid, chair of Citizens UK  outside the Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London after the Home Office won its Court of Appeal challenge against a landmark ruling that allowed four Syrian refugees living in “the Jungle” camp in Calais to come to Britain (c) Jonathan Brady / PA Wire.