A Nigerian mother and her five-year-old son will arrive back in the UK today after the Home Office lost a legal challenge to prevent their return yesterday.
Stephanie Harrison QC and Kathryn Cronin of Garden Court Chambers represented the mother and the child. This case has been reported in the Independent.
The family won a judicial review of the decision to remove them in January 2015 when the Upper Tribunal (Cranston J and Judge Reeds) ruled that the Home Office breached the important duties under section 55 of the Borders Act 2009 to take account of the best interests and welfare of the child in deciding a fresh claim made on behalf of the mother.
The Upper Tribunal ordered their return to Britain by 23 April 2015. An attempt to appeal and set aside that judgment was rejected by Lord Justice McCombe, following an urgent application made yesterday just hours before the family were due to fly back to the UK.
The Judge indicated that the Home Office had not properly understood the significance and importance of the Tribunal’s finding in respect of the breach of section 55, and upheld the order for return despite the Home Office asserting that the order was unprecedented and would have serious implications beyond the individual case.
Stephanie Harrison QC told the Court that: “At the heart of this case is an extremely vulnerable child who has so far avoided permanent damage but is at risk if he remains in the situation in Nigeria where his mother is unable to protect him adequately.”
Issues were also raised about the ineffectiveness of the out of country appeal. Weight was placed by the Upper Tribunal on the effect of legal aid cuts and the lack of general funding for Article 8 appeals, compounding the disadvantages of out of country appeals and the additional delays that obstacles to funding cause.
Ms Harrison QC also emphasised the exceptional support that the mother and child had received from their local community in the UK where the child was born and lived until removed to Nigeria. Without the funds and practical support from the UK, the mother (who has a serious mental illness) and child would have been homeless, destitute and at risk of exploitation and abuse.
This case shows how ordinary people in communities around the UK will go to extraordinary lengths when they see injustice and the effects of inhumane immigration decisions. The support given to this vulnerable mother and child belies the political and media obsession with painting the UK as anti-immigrant. In this case the community saw a child first and not an immigrant. If the Home Office had adhered to section 55 of the Borders Act 2009, the child would never have been put through the ordeal of detention and removal.
Stephanie Harrison QC and Kathryn Cronin are both members of the Garden Court Chambers Immigration Team. They were instructed by Mark Scott of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors. The Office of the Children Champion intervened in the case.