Home Office wins Syrian refugee appeal in Court of Appeal

Jungle migrants camp, Calais Image copyright AFP
Image caption The four were living in the "Jungle" camp in Calais

The Home Office has won an appeal against a landmark ruling allowing four Syrian refugees living in Calais' so-called Jungle camp to come to Britain.

In January, a British judge ruled three teenagers and a 26-year-old man could immediately come to the UK to live with relatives already in the country.

The Home Office appealed, arguing all refugees should apply for asylum in the first EU member state they reach.

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 case concerned three 16-year-olds - who because of their age were considered children - and a 26-year-old who suffers from a serious mental illness, and is a brother of one of the three teenagers.

All 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.

Asylum claims

Under EU 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.

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.

In January, lawyers for the four successfully argued they 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.

However, three Court of Appeal judges have now said bypassing the Dublin III Regulation "can only be justified in an especially compelling case".

Handing down their judgement, judges Lord Justice Moore-Bick, Lord Justice Longmore and Lord Justice Beatson ruled in favour of the Home Office appeal.

'I tried to pass dangerous border'

Since the original ruling back in January some 50 refugees have been able to come to the UK.

One of them is Omar - not his real name - who told the BBC's legal correspondent, Clive Coleman, about how he wanted to be reunited with his sister.

"This is the reason that I tried to come to the UK on lorries or trains, and every night tried to pass the dangerous border - because of my sister," he said.

The Bishop of Barking, Peter Hill, a spokesman for Citizens UK - which helped to bring the initial case - called on the Home Office to establish a "functional system" for identifying refugee children with potential claims to family reunification in the UK.

He said relying on volunteers and lawyers to identify refugee children and then processing claims "child by child" was "inefficient, costly to the taxpayer, and hugely stressful for the children".

Image copyright PA
Image caption The four were reunited with their families in London

"We know of two boys who have died in the last 12 months trying to reach their families in the UK," he added.

"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."

George Gabriel, a campaigner with Citizens UK, warned the ruling will make reuniting refugee children with their families in Britain harder.

He said the system in Britain had been "better" since the January judgement - saying 50 children had been brought to Britain since the case.

But speaking after the Court of Appeal ruling, he said: "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."

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