Saturday, March 11, 2017

Government is ordered to pay compensation to a Sudanese asylum seeker, 16,

  • Court of Appeal rejects challenge by Home Secretary over High Court decision
  • Last year it deemed that Government must pay damages to Abdul-Muttalab Ali
  • Teen held in detention despite being a minor as officer deemed he was over 18
  • After today's decision, judge said case 'has a wider importance for other cases'
The Government must pay compensation to a teenage Sudanese asylum seeker who immigration officers did not believe was a child.
The Court of Appeal has rejected a challenge by the Home Secretary after the High Court ruled the 16-year-old was entitled to damages.
The teen arrived in the UK to claim asylum in 2014 and was detained on the basis that officials 'assessed him, on appearance alone, to be significantly older than 18'. 
He was deemed to have been deprived of his liberty because the officer said he 'reasonably believed' he was over 18 and not a child exempt from detention. 
The Court of Appeal (housed inside London's Royal Courts of Justice, shown) has rejected a challenge by the Home Secretary after the High Court ruled the teen was entitled to damages
The Court of Appeal (housed inside London's Royal Courts of Justice, shown) has rejected a challenge by the Home Secretary after the High Court ruled the teen was entitled to damages
It comes after a judge at the High Court in London ruled last year that Home Office policy of relying on the 'reasonable belief' of immigration officers was legally flawed. 
Sir Stephen Silber declared the claimant - for the first time named as Abdul-Muttalab Ali - was entitled to damages for the whole of his detention period.
He declared that age assessments in unaccompanied minor cases must be determined as 'an issue of objective fact'. 
The case was appealed by the Home Secretary's office and heard at the Court of Appeal last month, with the judges' verdict announced this afternoon.  

Announcing the court's decision, Lord Justice Davis said the case 'has a wider importance for other cases'.

Lord Justice Davis, who heard the appeal with Lord Justice Underhill and Lord Justice Lindblom last month, declared the High Court judge had 'reached the right conclusion'.


Abdul-Muttalab Ali arrived in the UK in the back of a lorry in 2014 and was discovered in Wolverhampton.
He was allowed into the country on a temporary basis following a 'visual assessment' in which immigration officers deemed him to be over 18.
Meanwhile, the case was passed on to Wolverhampton City Council, who as the local authority is required to carry out a Merton compliant age assessment.
As part of the assessment, two social workers are given the task of conducting in-depth interviews with the client.
Among other things they ask questions about family, the person's origins and require a detailed description of the journey they took to arrive in the UK.
They also ask about their educational background and are required to consider ethnic and cultural information.
It takes into consideration the appearance on the individual but is not a complete physical examination.
Following Ali's Merton face-to-face assessment, social services informed the Home Office of its belief that he was 16.
However, when Ali turned up for a pre-booked meeting with officials he was detained by the Home Office, based on the earlier visual assessment carried out by immigration officers and not by the Merton assessment.
Ali was wrongly detained for almost three weeks before he was released. It is for this stint that he is seeking damages.
He said: 'If the result which I reach in this case is unwelcome to the present Government then its remedy is to amend the statutory provisions.'

Home Office lawyers had described the case as being 'profoundly troubling for the efficient running of a fair immigration system'.

But the Refugee Council said the High Court judgment sent out a 'clear message to the Home Office that its current policy is both unlawful and indefensible'. 

The teenager's lawyers later described the Court of Appeal's judgment as a 'landmark'.
He added that the judges had ruled 'the Government have been unlawfully detaining vulnerable unaccompanied asylum seeking children since 2015'. 

Law firm Bhatia Best said the appeal court ruling has 'far reaching implications for how the Government must treat vulnerable unaccompanied children'.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: 'A culture of disbelief in our asylum system is putting children at risk.

'Children claiming asylum must be treated as children until proven otherwise, and must not be detained or held with adults.

'Britain has a long history of helping refugees from around the world, but this is put at risk if we cannot protect those who are most vulnerable.

'We are glad the court has agreed with us that asylum seekers who are under the age of 18 should not be detained even when immigration officials believe they are adults. 

This must be confirmed through an independent age assessment.' 


A terror suspect has lost a human rights fight against a decision to bar him from returning to Britain and strip him of his UK citizenship.
The Sudanese national was suspected of taking part in terrorism-related activities linked to the extremist group al Shabaab.
In 2010, the British Government deprived him of his UK citizenship and barred him from re-entering the country.
The man, who has not been named, brought a case against the measures at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
He claimed they violated his right to respect for private and family life, and had been discriminatory.
But judges at the Strasbourg court unanimously declared the application inadmissible.
The man, referred to as K2, was born in Sudan in 1982 and arrived in Britain as a child. He became a naturalised UK citizen in 2000.
Nine years later he left the country after being arrested and charged with a public order offence arising out his participation in protests against Israeli military action in Gaza.
He says he went directly to Sudan, where he currently lives.
But UK authorities assessed he first travelled with two extremist associates to Somalia, where he engaged in terrorism-related activities linked to al Shabaab.
In June 2010, then home secretary Theresa May made an order depriving him of his UK citizenship. 
K2 fought the moves in the UK courts, saying he could rebut the terrorism allegations but was unable to do so while he remained in Sudan. 
In its decision, the court concluded the decision to exclude the man from the UK was not disproportionate with the legitimate aim of protecting the public from the threat of terrorism.

No comments: