London, January 2017: In a potentially precedent-setting legal judgment, the High Court has ordered that an unaccompanied child refugee must be brought to the UK to be reunited with his British aunt. SRT grantee Safe Passage brought the case on the child’s behalf along with law firm Bhatt Murphy.
The boy, Dawit, is a 14-year-old refugee from Eritrea who was separated from his mother and brother as they tried to cross by sea from Egypt to Sicily in April 2016. His mother and brother later drowned making the crossing separately. Dawit was taken to a reception centre in Rome, where he was identified by volunteers working for Safe Passage.
Dawit’s lawyers wrote to the UK Home Office in September 26 describing his “compelling case” for resettlement and explaining that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The Home Office did not respond to their request or to two follow up requests sent in October.
The High Court found that the Home Office had failed to fulfil its obligations to Dawit under the Dublin III regulation, which rules that “in the absence of a family member, a sibling or a relative […] the Member State responsible shall be that where the unaccompanied minor has lodged his or her application for international protection, provided that it is in the best interest of the minor”.
Dawit is expected to arrive in the UK shortly, where he will live in north London with his aunt. Safe Passage believe that his case will act as a precedent for other unaccompanied child refugees in Europe. Rabbi Janet Darley of Citizens UK, which founded Safe Passage, said, “The courts have given the government legal, but also moral direction in how they should approach this serious and desperate issue.”
Mark Scott of Bhatt Murphy said, “This case sends a very clear message to European governments and the European commission: effective systems must be established so that the rights to family reunification in the European regulations and directives are accessible for children.”
Guardian article about Dawit’s case: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/01/eritrean-refugee-tragedy-guardian-observer-appeal-safe-passage-charity
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