The Upper Tribunal has issued an order requiring the Secretary of State for the Home Department (SSHD) to transfer a vulnerable, traumatised young asylum seeker, ‘AA’, from Greece to be reunited with his brothers in the UK as soon as possible.
The order follows a successful judicial review of the SSHD’s refusal to accept a take charge request (TCR) made by Greece pursuant to Article 17.2 of EU Regulation 604/2013 of 26 June 2013 (Dublin III Regulation). The application for judicial review was granted on the basis that:
- The Respondent’s refusal decision of Greece’s request erroneously failed to take account of the SSHD’s policy to consult the Sponsor’s file regarding the family link.
- The continued exclusion of the Applicant from the UK is a disproportionate breach of his right to family life with his brothers in the UK.
AA has been stranded on the outskirts of a refugee camp on the Greek island of Samos since December 2019. Having fled to Europe following detention and torture in his home country, AA, has been physically and sexually assaulted on a number of occasions whilst living on Samos.
The SSHD initially rejected an application for AA to be reunited with his brother in the UK in February 2021 after claiming that there was ‘insufficient’ evidence of a close relationship between the two. This position was later revised by the SSHD following a review of their own files, which apparently had not been conducted until a judicial review challenge was issued.
Handing down the judgment last week, Upper Tribunal Judge Jackson said:
I have no hesitation in the present case in accepting on the basis of the evidence before me that there is a disproportionate interference with the Applicant’s Article 8 rights.
In doing so, she attached ‘significant weight’ to a medical expert report by Dr David Bell. In this report, Dr Bell set out his consideration that AA suffers from a severe psychiatric disorder, a severe depressive disorder and he is in a complex-chronic traumatised state. Dr Bell described AA as being in the top 5% of all traumatised refugees he has ever assessed in his career. He stated unequivocally that if AA were to remain in his current context, the prognosis would be bleak, citing his suicidal ideations and attempts as evidence.
News of the court’s ruling was welcomed by AA and his brothers. However, the court’s order has yet to be given effect, and conditions for AA have continued to deteriorate. On Sunday night, AA’s tent was destroyed in a large fire that broke out in the refugee camp. Videos of the blaze were provided by AA to May Bulman, journalist for The Independent. AA now finds himself destitute and homeless. Of the few possessions he had, he only managed to rescue his papers and his phone – the lifeline he uses to contact his solicitors, and vitally, his brothers in the UK. Everything else he owned has been damaged or destroyed.
Speaking of his fears, AA has said:
I’m really, really scared. I don’t know where to go. I can’t sleep outside. Things are becoming worse and worse here.
One of AA’s brothers has spoken about his hopes for the future when AA is brought to the UK:
I want him to come to the UK so that I can look after him. He needs to be away from danger and to live safely. I want him to be able to study because he has lost too much time in education, and perhaps have the opportunity to do something nice or positive in his life.
In the context of an immigration system plagued by delays and uncertainty, AA hangs in an increasingly tenuous balance, waiting. His life, likewise, remains suspended as long as he remains in his current circumstances – he does not have the opportunity to move forward, to recover, or to try to build the sort of life his brother describes.
Rachel Harger, solicitor at Bindmans LLP who is representing AA, said:
AA has endured a legal process of over a year before reaching this ruling. Meanwhile the conditions on Samos are increasingly volatile and dangerous and the burning down of AA’s tent is just the latest example of events that continue to traumatise him.
The Home Office must now set out what action will be taken to expedite and facilitate AA’s safe arrival into the UK to be reunited with his brother.
AA is also represented by Rebecca Chapman of Garden Court Chambers and Eva Doerr of One Pump Court, who are instructed counsel.