Halt to removal of unaccompanied minors: landmark ruling

High Court, ‘Same day removals of children are unlawful and must stop’.

18 February 2010. In landmark ruling, High Court calls for a stop to the government’s policy of removing asylum-seeking children from the UK without notice.

Mr Justice Collins challenged the legality of the government’s treatment of vulnerable children when he ruled that removing child asylum seekers without the 72 hours’ notice given to adults was unlawful.

The ruling came in a judicial review on the UK Border Agency’s treatment of two unaccompanied asylum seeker children, aged 15 and 16, during their removal to  Italy by the Third Country Unit under the Dublin Regulations.

In the case of A, her removal was stopped after she managed to contact her legal representatives, having been detained at her foster carers’ home early in the morning without any notice of the removal; she was handcuffed and taken on board a flight to Italy.
In the case of T, five officers went to her home at 4am in the morning, without notice, detained her and put her on a flight to Italy at 7.30am. She was unable to contact her social worker or any legal representative. On arrival in Italy she was handed over to the Italian police who kept her in a cell for a few hours then released her on to the streets with no accommodation or money. Third County Unit was aware of the concerns of the local authority about her welfare: she had disclosed she had been subject to sexual assault and forced to work as a prostitute in her time in Italy and was awaiting health checks and a psychological assessment in the UK for the trauma. 

Common features to both cases make clear the practice of the UKBA in their dealings with unaccompanied children.

No notice of the date or time of the removal was given to the child in either case, contrary to the usual Home office policy: this meant that both were denied the possibility of taking advice, or seeking to challenge the removal.

The Third Country Unit had taken no steps to assure themselves that there were reception arrangements in place for either of the children.

Mr Justice Collins was extremely critical of the Third Country Unit’s practice and process in both cases and highlighted as areas of real concern the failure to give notice to the young people; the manner of their removal/attempted removal. In granting permission for judicial review in both cases, he identified that the cases raised issues of public importance.

He made it very clear to the SSHD that in his view same day removals of children were unlawful and must stop.

Immigration law specialist Liz Baratt from London law firm Bindmans LLP, who represented both children, commented:
“These cases highlight the reality of the UK Border Agency’s practices in relation to their dealings with unaccompanied children. Both cases suggest a systematic disregard for the welfare of children and young people subject to immigration control and a disregard of their own policies, as well as statutory duties to children.

‘In both cases my clients are young and have been caused extreme distress by the actions taken to remove them to Italy without any arrangements in place for their care in Italy. Both found the early morning raids on their homes in the UK highly stressful and frightening. The UK Border Agency must take its responsibilities to children seriously and put into practice procedures which safeguard children’s welfare.”

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