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Court of Appeal finds Home Office acted unlawfully when handling family reunification claims by children in Calais

Date of Publication: 
31 July 2018
Summary: 

Court finds there was a serious breach of the duty of candour and co-operation by the Secretary of State

Court of Appeal finds Home Office acted unlawfully when handling family reunification claims by children in Calais

31 July 2018
EIN

In a lengthy and important judgment handed down today, the Court of Appeal has found that the Home Office acted "unlawfully and unfairly" when deciding family reunification claims by children in Calais following the demolition of the "Jungle" camp.

Members of EIN can read the judgment here.

The legal challenge was brought by Safe Passage, a project of Citizens UK. Today's judgment overturns an earlier September 2017 High Court decision which ruled in favour of the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Safe Passage said in a press release today that the Court of Appeal found that the original ruling was wrong because the judge was given an 'incomplete picture' by the Government and 'a great deal of important evidence' was not brought to the attention of the High Court.

Safe Passage explained: "This evidence, withheld by the government until it was revealed to Citizens UK's legal team as a result of evidence disclosed in another case, includes emails between Home Office officials regarding advice they received from their lawyers that they should not provide reasons for refusing the children's applications to join their families, to avoid legal challenges.

"The emails also show that contrary to what the High Court was originally told by the government, French officials wanted the children to be given an adequate explanation as to why their cases had been rejected. The French officials were concerned that without these explanations, the children would have no hope of challenging the decisions and could not be assured that their cases had been properly considered, and as a result might leave the care of the authorities and try to reach their families themselves."

Lord Justice Singh said in today's judgment that there had been "a serious breach of the duty of candour and co-operation by the Secretary of State" and "the process adopted in this case was unfair and unlawful as a matter of common law."

Sonal Ghelani of the Islington Law Centre said it was "extremely disturbing" that the emails show the government was advised by the Home Office's own lawyers to act unfairly and unlawfully, in order to avoid legal challenges by the children concerned.

Ghelani added: "Public authorities have a duty of candour to provide the court with a full and accurate explanation of all the facts but we now know there was a serious breach of the duty of candour in this case, such that when making his ruling in the Government's favour, the High Court Judge was misled."

Labour's Yvette Cooper, the chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, described the case as "truly, truly shocking".

In a message posted on Twitter, Cooper stated: "Home Office lawyers appear to have deliberately advised against giving child & teen refugees in France the reasons why they were refused family reunion with relatives in UK to prevent them appealing against decision. Level of inhumanity in this is appalling."

Neil Jameson, Executive Director of Citizens UK, said: "This important legal win has laid bare the unjust situation faced by hundreds of child refugees who had applications to be reunited with their families in the UK rejected by the Home Office."

"We hope the Home Office will now focus on ensuring the most vulnerable child refugees can reach safety. A good start would be to commit to the long-term future of refugee resettlement by extending the VPRS and VCRS resettlement schemes to 10,000 people a year beyond 2020, doing our bit to help children and families fleeing conflict".