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Sudanese family protected from risk of deportation

Law Centre welcomes judgement preventing return of Sudanese family from Belfast to Dublin

The Law Centre has welcomed the High Court ruling of 14 August 2013 that a Sudanese family should not be returned from Northern Ireland to the Irish Republic and face the possibility of deportation back to Sudan.

This lead case, taken by the Law Centre, was the first of 38 cases before the High Court in Belfast, where Sudanese individuals and families who moved from the Republic to Northern Ireland are challenging a decision of Home Office to return them to Ireland under the Dublin II Convention where they may face deportation. The Convention allows countries to remove applicants to the country where the original asylum claim was made.

The UK’s long-standing position is that it is not safe to return non-Arab Darfuris to Sudan. This is based on independent in-country reports and as a result asylum is normally granted to applicants.  The position in the Republic of Ireland is different and non-Arab Darfuris are not automatically granted asylum and can therefore be deported.

There were several legal arguments including:

  • that the removal of the applicants from Belfast to Dublin would lead to a real risk of return to Sudan which is not a safe country for the family;
  • that the Republic of Ireland does not meet the minimum standards laid down in the Council Directive 2003/9/EC for the reception of the asylum seekers from which, in any event, the Republic has opted out from;
  • that the Home Office failed in its duty to ‘have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are in the UK.

The judgement upheld the argument that the best interests of the children were served by remaining in Northern Ireland and the decision to remove the family to the Republic of Ireland was quashed.

The judge, Stephen J, also considered the issue of the treatment of asylum seekers in the Republic of Ireland. He held that the legal test against removal on the grounds of conditions in the Republic of Ireland was whether there was a systemic failure in the asylum and reception procedures. He set out a number of independent reports detailing deficiencies in the Republic's treatment of asylum seekers and the low rate of success with appeals but did not hold that these amounted to systemic deficiencies.

The judgement requires careful reading by both the Irish and UK governments.  The Irish government needs to take on board the international evidence that it is not safe to return non-Arab Darfuris to Sudan.  Until it does so, the UK government should not return these individuals and their family members back to the Republic of Ireland.

‘This judgement serves to highlight what the Irish Ombudsman, Irish Refugee Council, UN High Commission for Refugees and many others have been saying about the treatment of asylum seekers in the Republic’, said Law Centre (NI) director Les Allamby. 'The sooner the Irish government signs up to and meets the European Council directive on minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers the better', he added.

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