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Bishop welcomes ‘right to safe haven’ for refugee children

22 January 2016


Remembered: well-wishers attend Masud’s memorial event on Monday

Remembered: well-wishers attend Masud’s memorial event on Monday

THE Bishop of Barking, the Rt Revd Peter Hill, has welcomed a ruling by immigration judges that four Syrians in the camp in Calais known as “The Jungle” should be brought to the UK immediately, to join their relatives.

On Wednesday, after the Church Times went to press, Judge Mark Ockelton and Mr Justice Bernard McCloskey ordered that three Syrian youths, and an accompanying adult, should, under Dublin 3 Regulations, be allowed to live with their relatives in the UK while their asylum claims are examined.

“This is a fantastic outcome for vulnerable child refugees in Calais,” Bishop Hill said on Thursday.

“Hopefully, it puts an end to the unjust and damaging inaction of both the British and French Governments. . . Sadly, it has been too late for some.”

The case rested on a clause in the Dublin 3 Regulations, under which minors who have a nuclear-family member in a particular EU country can claim asylum there, even if they have entered Europe via another safe country. It was brought to court by Citizens UK, the Migrants’ Law Project, and Bhatt Murphy Solicitors.

The four men arrived at the camp in Calais in October, after fleeing from Syria in September. They had applied to the Government to take charge of their asylum claims, which would allow them to live in the UK.

The Home Office rejected their applications under the Regulations, which they said would only allow the men to join relatives in the UK if they had already applied for asylum in France, and if there was an official request from Paris.

The Syrians’ lawyers successfully challenged the decision in a judicial review, arguing that the Dublin system is not working. A solicitor from Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, Mark Scott, said: “This is a great day for families, and a terrible one for people traffickers across Europe. Safe and legal routes are the alternative we need.”

George Gabriel, a campaigner at Citizens UK, said that the group was “delighted” with the judgment. “We look forward to being able to see these families, who have been so cruelly separated by war, reunited and safe,” he said. “This judgment highlights that there are safe, legal routes to reconnect families, using the Dublin 3.”

One of the individuals in the case, Muhammed, has an older brother, Ahmed, who lives in the UK. Ahmed, who provided written evidence for the case, said that his parents had decided that it was safer for Muhammed to flee to France than to stay in Syria.

Ahmed spoke to his brother on the phone as he made the journey across Europe. “He suffered a lot to get to Calais. The journey has been very tiring, very difficult,” he said on Monday.

On reaching France, Muhammed tried to smuggle himself into the UK, despite warnings from Ahmed that the journey would be too dangerous. Ahmed said: “He says to me, ‘If I stayed in Syria under the bombings and the war, it would be better than the life here in the camp, in the cold, the illness, in a very difficult situation.’”

“I just hope they will care about the case. [Muhammed] has been under lot of pressure; he suffered a lot.”

The ground-breaking ruling came after the memorial, on Monday, of a 15-year-old Afghan boy, Masud, who suffocated to death in the back of a lorry travelling to the UK on 3 January. Bishop Hill, who gave the address, called on the Government to recognise that stranded child refugees with relatives in the UK possess the “legal right to safe haven here”.

He told the congregation at the memorial event, organised by Citizens UK, at St Andrew’s, Holborn, that the “inaction” of the Home Secretary, Theresa May, regarding minors in the camps was “totally unacceptable”.

The Bishop joined faith leaders, volunteers, and campaigners in laying white flowers outside the church in remembrance of Masud and the hundreds of refugees who have died attempting to cross the border to the UK.

Last week, a retired British soldier, Rob Lawrie, from Guiseley, Leeds, was acquitted of trying to smuggle a four-year-old girl out of Calais to join her relatives in the UK. Mr Lawrie vowed to continue his fight for the children who could be the “teachers, doctors, lawyers of tomorrow”, after he was cleared of people-smuggling by a French court in Boulogne-sur-Mer.

Also this week, donations to the Anglican mission Us. (formerly USPG) have been used to transform a previously “dangerous” location on the Greek island of Lesbos into a welcome centre for refugees, offering shelter, food, and medicine, the agency said.


Some names have been changed.

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