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Children’s Commissioner welcomes SC verdict upholding children’s ‘best interests’

`It puts UN Convention at heart of decisions in family removal, deportation cases’

7th February 2011: The Supreme Court verdict overruling the removal of an asylum seeker and upholding child’s ‘best interests’, has largely been welcomed by charities, migrant rights’ organisations and even Children’s Commissioner for England. 

children-detention-swing.pngResponding to the verdict in ZH v (Tanzania) (FC) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2011] UKSC 4, Children’s Commissioner for England Maggie Atkinson has described it as groundbreaking judgment and a most welcome development.

Atkinson says it puts the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), in particular the requirement on State Parties to treat children’s best interests as a primary consideration in their decision making, at the very heart of decisions that are taken in family removal and deportation cases.

Atkinson asserts they have long campaigned for children who are caught up in the immigration and asylum system to be heard and for them to be treated in accordance with their UNCRC rights.

The Supreme Court ruling builds on the Government’s decision to remove its reservation to Article 22 of the UNCRC, to establish a duty on the UK Border Agency to safeguard children and promote their welfare and to end the detention of children for immigration purposes.

A national of Tanzania, ZH entered into an eight-year relationship with a British citizen in the UK. By that time, the couple had two children, 12 and 9 years of age. Both were British Citizens by decent.

Taking up the matter, Tribunal ruled it would be proportionate for the children either to stay in the UK with their British father, and for their mother to return to Tanzania, or for the children to return with their mother to Tanzania and for their father to remain in the UK.

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants says enlightened by international law, the child’s interests are robustly asserted by the Court as a paramount consideration in assessing proportionality per 8(2) ECHR.

Applying the correct approach to a true assessment of any facts means it will rarely be proportionate to sever relationships between children and one or both of the children’s parents, especially if the child is a British citizen.

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