Syria refugees granted UK entry from Calais 'faced hell' - judge

The four Syrian refugees with their faces pixelated Image copyright PA
Image caption The group of four, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, will live with relatives while their asylum claims are considered

Four Syrian refugees were given entry to the UK while they were seeking asylum because of their age, trauma, and the "living hell" they faced in the Calais "Jungle" camp, a judge has said.

An immigration judge ruled on 21 January that the three teenagers and a mentally ill man were entitled to enter the UK to join relatives already here.

However, many migrants in the camp were "probably not refugees", he said.

A refugee charity said the ruling could affect 200 to 300 children in the camp.

The Home Office has sought permission to challenge the ruling.

The four refugees who were the subject of the ruling, who all fled the Syrian civil war and had been living in the camp for at least two months, will live with their relatives in the UK while their asylum claims are considered.

Syrian teenagers win UK asylum ruling

Explaining his decision, judge Mr Justice McCloskey said they were in a "special, indeed unique situation" because of factors including their ages, vulnerability, and their psychologically traumatised conditions.

Lawyers for the young men had argued that they faced "intolerable" conditions in the camp, and had a right under the Human Rights Act to be reunited with family members already living in Britain legally.

'Deplorable conditions'

The judge agreed that the "bleak" Calais camps posed dangers including "trafficking, violence, exploitation of unaccompanied children and the abuse, including rape, of women" as well as living near toxic substances including asbestos.

"The conditions prevailing in this desolate part of the earth are about as deplorable as any citizen of the developed nations could imagine," he said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The four had been living in the "Jungle camp" in Calais for at least two months
Image copyright PA
Image caption The tribunal heard evidence about unsanitary conditions at the camp

The four refugee's links to relatives in the UK, the likelihood that their asylum applications would be accepted, and the mental disability of one applicant were factors that also tip the balance in their favour, the judge said.

However he stressed that "such cases are likely to be rare", saying many people living in the camp were probably not refugees "in any general sense".

"It seems likely that there is no real basis for many of its occupants remaining indefinitely in the 'Jungle' and enduring the conditions that obtain there," he said.

Instead, many were migrants from various countries outside the European Union who wanted to claim asylum in the UK rather than France because of a "perceived advantages, correct or otherwise", he said.

'Desperate families'

But George Gabriel, of refugee charity Citizens UK, said the decision could affect between 200 and 300 children currently living in the camp.

"Today's ruling is amazing news for families who have spent too long, and worked too hard, to try and find each other across continents of barbed wire (or) crossing in those terrible sinking boats," he said.

The charity was "delighted the UK government is going to be forced to fulfil its obligations... to help these families reunite at last", he added.

One of the group, who arrived in the UK a week ago, described his happiness at being reunited with his family and being able to go back to school for the first time in three years.

The 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said he fled his home in the south of Syria after his brother was tortured by government forces, and embarked on a gruelling journey across Europe.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Supporters gathered at London St Pancras station to welcome the group as they arrived last week

After the ruling last week, one of the group urged refugees waiting to enter Britain to "have faith".

He said they should see his case as proof there was a way to reach the UK "legally and safely".

The refugees' legal team successfully argued that bureaucratic delays in France meant their cases should be handed over to the UK, where they all have relatives legally living.

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.

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