UK court rules against decision to accept Calais migrants

The Jungle refugee camp in Calais in January 2016. [malachybrowne/Flickr]

The British government on Tuesday (2 August) won its legal appeal against a decision to let four Syrian refugees living in France’s “Jungle” camp come to Britain, but they will not be deported.

A British immigration tribunal in January ordered the interior ministry to allow the four to enter Britain while their asylum claims were considered.

However, three Court of Appeal judges on Tuesday upheld a challenge by the interior ministry, saying they were “not entirely persuaded” by the justifications used by the tribunal.

The three teenagers and a 26-year old with mental health problems had been living in the sprawling Calais camp for over two months.

Under European Union rules, refugees should apply for asylum in the first country they reach, but children and vulnerable adults can transfer their claims to another country if they have relatives legally living there.

Lawyers argued conditions in the camp were “intolerable” and that bureaucratic delays in France meant that the Syrians’ applications to live with relatives in Britain were not being processed.

The tribunal agreed that the application should be processed in Britain, and that the four should be allowed to live in the country in the meantime.

In January, the four arrived in Britain to a welcome from about 100 pro-refugee demonstrators holding yellow balloons and banners reading “refugees welcome”.

They were reunited with their families and two have since been granted refugee status, with the other two cases pending.

The government is not seeking to deport the four but is concerned that the tribunal’s decision set a legal precedent.

Unaccompanied minors

Campaigners had hoped that the ruling would jolt the government into action, opening the way to relocate more unaccompanied minors from the “Jungle” camp in Calais to Britain.

“It (Tuesday’s ruling) 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,” George Gabriel, a campaigner with charity Citizens UK, told the Press Association.

“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.”

Immigration was one of the most influential issues in the UK referendum on its membership of the EU, despite the British opt-out on EU asylum law.

On 26 July, a UK parliamentary report warned the EU was ‘systematically’ failing unaccompanied child refugees.

The report criticised Britain for not taking in its fair share of asylum seekers.

The British in January agreed to take some lone child refugees directly from North Africa and the Middle East. But it rejected calls to accept 3,000 children who had made it to Europe.

In May, under growing pressure, then-prime minister David Cameron said the UK would take in more unaccompanied Syrian child refugees but did not commit to a number.

UK and EU ‘failing’ unaccompanied child refugees

The European Union is ‘systematically’ failing unaccompanied child refugees, a UK parliamentary report, which criticised Britain for not taking in its fair share of asylum seekers, has warned.

Subscribe to our newsletters