Unfair Home Office treatment of lone refugee children denied entry to the UK under 'Dubs'
The Court of Appeal has ruled today that unaccompanied child refugees in Calais refused entry to Britain were given “patently inadequate” reasons for the rejection of their applications.
Posted on 03 October 2018
Leading refugee NGO, Help Refugees, argued that children being considered for relocation had been denied fundamental procedural safeguards. Children were given no written decisions, let alone detailed reasons, for refusal and there was no review mechanism by which children could challenge decisions they believed were wrong. Help Refugees argued in particular that the lack of adequate reasons for refusals made accessing the courts of England and Wales effectively impossible.
At an earlier stage in the same proceedings, the Home Office argued before the Divisional Court that it could not give each child considered for transfer under the Dubs Amendment reasons for their refusal because this would take too long. Evidence subsequently emerged in the Court of Appeal that the Home Office had in fact, internally, decided not to convey fuller reasons for fear that children refused transfer would bring legal challenges.
The NGO also argued in their appeal before the Court of Appeal that the government’s consultation with local authorities concerning how many children they could accept was wholly inadequate. The Court of Appeal dismissed that part of the claim, upholding the lawfulness of the consultation.
Under section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 the Home Office was required, as soon as possible after the passing of the Immigration Act 2016, to make arrangements to relocate to the UK and support a “specified number” of unaccompanied refugee children from other countries in Europe, that number to be determined in consultation with local authorities. The initial number was set at 350 but following investigations by the Help Refugees’ legal team, the Home Office was compelled to admit that 130 places had been overlooked and the “specified number” was accordingly increased to 480.
The Help Refugees litigation also compelled the Home Office to consent to a declaration that the “specified number” of children to be transferred under the Dubs Amendment was exclusive of any children transferred under the UK’s pre-existing EU law obligations (the Dublin III Regulation) – the Home Office initially sought to argue that it could meet its obligations under the Dubs Amendment principally by transferring children to the UK which it was already required to transfer by the Dublin III Regulation. Transfers of children under the Dublin Amendment itself began only after Help Refugees brought its legal challenge.
Josie Naughton, CEO and Co-founder of Help Refugees, said:
"Today’s judgement rightly forces the government to recognise that every child considered for transfer under the Dubs scheme and refused must be given reasons. For two years, vulnerable children have been rejected without any real explanation. Children who received these decisions are now missing; for them it is too late. These spaces, that still remain unfilled, could have saved their lives. Instead, children have been left in mental anguish, at risk of exploitation and abuse.
"We’re saddened that there will be no further consultation, but remain committed to hold the government to account to ensure all 480 spaces are filled. This will be the third winter that some eligible children have faced since the Dubs Amendment was first passed. We have a responsibility to bring them to safety before the end of the year."
Rosa Curling, solicitor from Leigh Day, said:
“We are pleased that the Court of Appeal has ruled that unaccompanied refugee children must give reasons if refused transfer to the UK under the Dubs Amendment. These are potentially life-altering decisions for a particularly vulnerable group of children. It is essential that children know why they are refused and have the possibility effectively to challenge decisions they believe to be unlawful.”
Lord Alf Dubs added:
"For two years, we have fought tooth and nail for the rights of these vulnerable children. Today, I'm relieved to say that it was worth it. Every unaccompanied child we have turned away deserves an explanation and a chance to appeal the decision, and we're delighted to courts have agreed with us on that. The decision gives some hope to thousands of vulnerable child refugees in Europe."