Based on the conclusion that it would not be in the best interests of the children to be returned to Ireland’s reception system for asylum seekers, the High Court of Northern Ireland decided in ALJ and A, B and C, Re Judicial Review that the UK should take responsibility for the asylum claims of a Sudanese family and quashed a removal decision from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland. 

The ruling stated that Ireland’s reception system for asylum seekers, referred to as “Direct Provision” is contrary to the ‘best interests of the child’. The direct provision system is also currently being challenged at Ireland’s High Court.

In the present case, Justice Stephens found that the UK Border Agency failed to act in the ‘best interests of the children’, a principle that the Secretary of State needs to take into consideration when deciding upon asylum, immigration or nationality issues. The judge listed several repercussions if the Sudanese family was to be removed from the UK to Ireland. In particular, the fact that the mother and the eldest child would not be allowed to work in Ireland and the likelihood of the emergence of health and psychological problems due to a lengthy stay in Ireland’s Direct Provision system, possibly leading to mental illness, were cited.

With regards to the refugee and protection status determination process, the ruling stated that Ireland’s low rate of recognition of protection seekers was “disturbing”.

Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, welcomed the judgment and commented: “This decision is a sad, but accurate, reflection of a system that is failing to protect the best interests of children. The reality is that asylum seekers can live independent lives in Northern Ireland, while just a few miles over the border they are forced to live in a state of institutionalised poverty. Direct Provision simply is not suitable for families and vulnerable people.”

Ireland opted out of the recast Reception Conditions Directive, which provides for minimum standards for reception conditions and allows asylum seekers conditional access to Member States’ employment markets within nine months of lodging their applications.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 13 September 2013
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