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Home Office Accused by Court Of Appeal for Detaining a Child Refugee Unlawfully
12 November 2015
The Court of Appeal recently ruled that the Home Office acted unlawfully when it detained an immigrant child entering the country. The ruling was passed on 6th November and the alleged victim was a 16 year old Iranian child named VS who was treated as an adult immigrant and kept from his family for 21 days, with plans to move him from the UK to Italy so his asylum claim could be dealt with there.
According to the Court of Appeal, removing a child refugee from the UK and transferring to another EU member state does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Home Office. When the young refugee arrived in the UK from Dover in 2012, he was in his mid teens, yet he was still detained at the Dover Enforcement Unit for several hours and was handed over to the Kent County Council Children’s local service. The authority disputed his age by claiming that he was two years older than he claimed and thus branded him an adult rather than a child.
The decision was not investigated by the Home Office, which was also contrary to its own policies regarding detainments. VS was held in the Dover Immigration Removal Centre with the intention of being deported to Italy. The decision was found to be a breach of the authority’s current policies which do not allow the detainment of children in case of exceptional circumstances. On investigating the case, none were found that could justify the child’s prolonged detainment.
According to Dublin II regulations, the Home Office can only remove adult refugees or asylum seekers who have gone through member states of the EU. However, this authority does not extend to children and it also has to confirm their asylum claim in the UK. Despite consistent claims to the contrary and even documents that proved his actual age, VS was treated as an adult by the Home Office and kept from entering the country.
The documents were also produced in court as evidence but the Home Office refused to accept it and kept the child in the detention centre until after the proceedings. The High Court also barred it from relocating the child from the country until the age dispute was settled. The decision was followed by one for a hearing to dispute the legal legitimacy and repercussions of VS’s illegal detention as a child detainee.
The case came into the public eye in 2014 after a High Court judge declared that VS was detained illegally by the Home Office which was a breach of its policies. The judgment was appealed by the latter with the Court of Appeal but it was rejected and the Home Office had no choice but to admit that their decision was unlawful and a human rights violation. A number of similar cases will also be considered in light of this judgment to the relief of immigrant families based in the UK.