UK

Syrian teenagers in Calais win UK asylum ruling

Jungle migrants camp, Calais Image copyright AFP
Image caption The four have been living in the Jungle camp in Calais

British judges have ruled that three Syrian teenagers and an adult in the Calais migrant camp can come to the UK immediately as they have siblings here.

An immigration tribunal told the Home Office to process their asylum claims because France had not already done so.

The case could lead to further claims if other vulnerable asylum seekers can prove they have links to the UK.

Campaigners said the decision was groundbreaking, although the Home Office may appeal.

The three 16-year-olds, who in legal terms are classed as children, have been living in the so-called "Jungle" camp for at least two months. The fourth claimant is the 26-year-old brother of one of the other three and suffers from a serious mental illness.

All four had fled the Syrian civil war, saying they had witnessed traumatic events including bombings and death. Two of them were detained and tortured by the Syrian government.

None of them had 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.

Lawyers told judges at the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal earlier this week that the group were suffering "intolerable" conditions in the massive and unsanitary camp and were desperate to be reunited safely with their siblings.

They successfully argued that all four should be allowed to enter the UK and apply for asylum here, rather than being forced to remain in France in the hope that its government would eventually consider their case.

A spokesman for the judiciary said: "The tribunal has, subject to conditions, ordered that four individuals, who claim to be refugees, should, in the particular circumstances of their cases, be allowed to enter the UK.

"The tribunal's full judgement is expected within two weeks."

EU rules

Under European rules, known as Dublin III, asylum seekers must claim asylum in the first country 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.

The Dublin rules could be scrapped by Brussels in an attempt to better relocate the unprecedented number of refugees - although the UK is likely to oppose such a move.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The tribunal heard evidence about unsanitary conditions at the camp

George Gabriel of Citizens UK, a campaign group involved in the legal action, said: "We are delighted with the judgment and look forward to being able to see these families, who have been so cruelly separated by war; reunited and safe.

"This judgment highlights that there are safe, legal routes to reconnect families using the Dublin III regulations, and we hope will allow other families to be reunited."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "We will study the full judgement in detail. We stand by the well-established principle that those seeking protection should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach. The court still requires these individuals to claim asylum in France before they can come to the UK.

"Any request to unite family members under the Dublin Regulation is carefully considered. Where someone seeking asylum elsewhere in the EU can demonstrate they have close family members legally in the UK, we will take responsibility for that claim."

Welcoming the decision, the Refugee Council's Judith Dennis said: "This judgement has shone a welcome light on the plight of refugees seeking protection in Europe who are desperately trying to reach their relatives.

"Everyone has the right to live in safety with their loved ones. European governments must work together to ensure families are reunited safely and speedily, especially when it comes to children and other dependent family members."

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