Yesterday, the Northern Ireland High Court in Belfast ruled that a Sudanese political journalist, aged 37, and her three children, aged 18, 16, and 12, should not be sent back to Ireland because Ireland’s Direct Provision system would not be in the best interests of the family.
The woman, known only as ALJ, and her children made their way to Dublin from Sudan in April 2010, via a three-week boat journey operated by traffickers.
Their application for protection was rejected in Ireland and in July of 2011, they travelled to the North and applied for asylum there.
However, the UK Border Agency requested Ireland to take them back, which the Irish government accepted.
Yesterday’s ruling was a result of the family challenging this decision.
While delivering his decision to quash the removal order, Mr Justice Stephens took issue with the UK Border Agency’s assertion that the family would be afforded the same opportunities for development, and the same level of support, in the Republic as in the North.
On the contrary, he said:
“(This assertion) either fails to address the first question namely what is in the best interest of the children or it is an assertion that the best interests of the children are equally met in Ireland and in Northern Ireland. If it is the former then the decision maker has failed to address an essential question. If it is the latter then it cannot stand up to any analysis. No specific plan individual to this family has been formulated in Ireland for their reception on removal. ALJ, the children’s primary carer, has no prospect of working in Ireland but has the prospect of working in Northern Ireland. The well-being both emotionally and financially of the primary carer and the importance of that to the well-being of the children in her care would point significantly to the best interests of the children being to remain in Northern Ireland. The children, most significantly A, has no prospect of working in Ireland but he has that prospect in Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland the family is in a separate house of their own which they can call their home. In Ireland they are required to live in hostel accommodation and prevented from living in their own accommodation. In Northern Ireland the family are not bound to remain in close proximity to a hostel in order to eat regular meals. In Northern Ireland being in their own home they can interact with each other as a normal family without interference by other asylum seekers or by hostel staff. The children by virtue of being brought up in their own home can develop a sense of belonging and separate identity. In Ireland there are problems with enforced isolation and poverty. In Northern Ireland between the ages of 16 and 18 the children are entitled to receive a State education. That is not so in Ireland. A comparison of the description of the accommodation that is provided in Ireland and the accommodation that is provided in Northern Ireland shows a marked difference in quality and therefore in the quality of life of those who live in such accommodation. There is ample evidence of physical and mental health issues developing in Ireland amongst those asylum seekers who are in Direct Provision accommodation. Ireland has opted out of the minimum standards directive and there is considerable evidence that the provisions in Ireland do not meet the minimum standards in that directive. Any analysis of the best interests of the children would have led to the inevitable conclusion that the best interests of the children favoured remaining in Northern Ireland.”
“For those reasons alone the best interests of the children are that they should remain in Northern Ireland.”
Read full judgement here
Previously: Today In The High Court