The Jungle and the Right to Family Unification
A UK Tribunal has ruled that four asylum seekers from ‘the Jungle’ of Calais have to be reunited with their family members in the UK while awaiting an asylum decision.
In ‘the Jungle’ near Calais, thousands of asylum seekers are living in the hope of being able to enter the United Kingdom illegally. It has been widely reported that living conditions in this clandestine camp for asylum seekers are poor and that there is no adequate protection against human rights violations. Furthermore, it is reported that among the inhabitants of ‘the Jungle’ there are persons who have the right to enter the United Kingdom if the proper procedures were followed.
On 29 January 2016 the UK Immigration and Asylum Tribunal ruled that the refusal to admit four asylum seekers to the United Kingdom constitutes a violation of Article 8 ECHR, which protects the right to respect for private and family law. The ruling, which is unprecedented, is an important development in establishing a right to family unification for refugees.
The case concerns four Syrian asylum seekers who are on their way to the United Kingdom. Three of them are unaccompanied minors aged sixteen. The other person is a twenty-six-year old who suffers from a serious mental illness. They all claim to be the family members of three other Syrian nationals who have been recognised as refugees in the UK. The Tribunal holds that the refusal to admit the four applicants would interfere disproportionally with the applicants’ right to respect for family life under Article 8 ECHR. Several reasons are provided by the Tribunal in paragraph 55 of the ruling, including the delay of one year during which the applicants would be forced to remain in Calais.
The Tribunal in the end concludes that the United Kingdom must admit the applicants after they have submitted an asylum claim to the French authorities so that the applicability of the Dublin Regulation, which lays down which Member State is responsible for the handling of an asylum claim, can be tested while the applicants are with their family members in the United Kingdom. In this way, the Tribunal feels that “it strikes an appropriate balance by preserving the general structure of the CEAS and the Dublin Regulation principles in particular, while simultaneously ensuring that once a claim by any of the first four Applicants has been made the administration of the CEAS will not be permitted to interfere disproportionately with the Article 8 rights of that Applicant or his family member.” The case is different than any other ‘ordinary’ Dublin-case because here it is the United Kingdom which should establish itself whether it is the appropriate member state to handle the asylum application, while under normal circumstances it would only do so after a request from the French authorities.
In the Dublin Regulation, family relations play an important role. If there are family members present in another Member State, that Member State is responsible for the handling of an asylum claim. With the current discussion on the collapse of the Dublin system due to the large number of asylum seekers arriving in the Member States, the risk exists that the baby will be thrown out with the bathwater so to speak. The role of the Dublin Regulation in preserving family ties in situations where families are scattered over different Member States is very valuable. The UK Immigration and Asylum Tribunal in this way seeks a practical though unconventional solution to make sure these families with vulnerable minors are reunited.