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Landmark judgment for Calais refugees with UK-based relatives

Campaigners are celebrating a British court judgment that could yet see many stuck in Calais being allowed to enter the UK

On Wednesday (20 Jan) a British court ordered that three Syrian teenagers and one adult in Calais should be immediately brought to Britain to join their relatives.


Judicial review overturns Home Office ruling

The judicial review ruled that the three unaccompanied children and dependent adult should, under European rules, be allowed to live with their loved ones who are already in Britain while their asylum claims are examined.

The Home Office had previously refused to consider their asylum applications under the ‘Dublin regulation’, that would only allow an asylum seeker in Calais to join family in Britain if they had already applied for asylum in France and there was an official request from Paris for them to join relatives.

However, lawyers successfully argued that the current system wasn’t working, and the court has accepted that evidence of a written claim to asylum in France was sufficient to prove the children had initially sought safety there.

The case was brought to court by Citizens UK, Islington Law Centre and Bhatt Murphy Solicitors.

George Gabriel, Citizens UK said: ‘We are delighted with the judgment and look forward to being able to see these families, who have been so cruelly separated by war; reunited and safe.

‘This judgment highlights that there are safe, legal routes to reconnect families using the Dublin III regulations, and we hope will allow other families to be reunited.’
Read more about the story on the BBC and The Guardian

Ground-breaking ruling

Baptist minister and Urban Expression co-founder Juliet Kilpin has worked closely with Citizens UK in recent months, and has visited Calais on numerous occasions.  

She described the ruling as “ground-breaking”.

‘I have done very little other than encourage these volunteers, speak out against the injustice and cheer on those who have dared to believe that they could save some lives by getting the British Home Office to implement their own rules,’ Juliet said.

‘It has been an immense privilege to adventure with those who have not only been seeking justice but who have organised for justice. In this way many small acts have multiplied into a ground-breaking ruling that will undoubtedly change these boys' lives, but may also enable other vulnerable children to be reunited with their families.’

Juliet contacted Citizens in early September after Baptists started responding to the escalating refugee crisis with the offer of beds for accommodation. Citizens were encouraged by this engagement and invited Baptists to sit on their newly formed National Refugee Welcome and Resettlement Board.

During further visits to Calais she met members of the Syrian community, some of whom had also met members of Citizens UK. Together they worked to collect information about the many unaccompanied children stranded in the intolerable conditions in Calais and liaise with a team of legal experts to build the case. 

Juliet was also among the 100 or so people who welcomed the four on their arrival at St Pancras on Thursday night.
Also welcoming the ruling was General Secretary the Revd Lynn Green. 'We recognise that the current situation is a complex and difficult one, and there will be a range of responses even across our Baptist movement,' she said.

'However it flies in the face of our Gospel values that while politicians struggle to find an answer to what has become a growing crisis, children and vulnerable adults should be left unaccompanied and separated from those who can support and care for them. This is a simple act of humanity that is the very least our nation can do.'

'Just the start of the work' - and citing Martin Luther King

Following the ruling, campaigners have challenged the UK and French authorities to ensure no more children are driven into the hands of people smugglers or are so desperate they take terrible risks to reach the safety of the UK. Citizens UK believe there are at least 250 unaccompanied minors living in the camp.

George cited the example of 15 year old Masud from Afghanistan, who suffocated in the back of a lorry last week trying to reach his sister in the UK.

‘We know this is just the start of work to ensure the most vulnerable are protected and are pleased with this positive outcome,' he said. 'It will help us to continue to fight for justice for those who are in most need through no fault of their own.'

Perhaps this is a lesson we can all take, that getting organised and working collaboratively and practically can achieve justice

Juliet also highlighted the importance of being organised to achieve justice - which might yet mean the difference for other teenagers and children in Calais.

‘Perhaps this is a lesson we can all take, that getting organised and working collaboratively and practically can achieve justice. As Martin Luther King Jr said, 'Those who love peace must learn to organise as effectively as those who love war'.
‘In my delight I also despair for young Mamud (not his real name), a 15-year-old Iraqi boy I drank chai with this week. His parents were both killed in Iraq and he and his younger brother are trying to get to their closest relative, their grandad who lives in the UK.
‘As the camp freezes under sub-zero temperatures each night and people struggle to find firewood to keep warm; as the French police continue to tear gas the camp most nights and as traffickers continue to offer life-threatening journeys to the UK, I fear for his safety.

‘Will the UK follow its own legislation and give this child safe passage to be reunited with his granddad and claim asylum from here?

‘Perhaps if we get organised, they will.’ 
George called for volunteer lawyers, translators and coordinators to help bring to the UK more refugee children and vulnerable adults with connections to nuclear family members living in Britain. Volunteers can register at the Safe Passage website.


Baptist Times, 21/01/2016
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