A Syrian torture victim has discovered he will have to wait even longer for a final decision on whether he can stay in Jersey after immigration officials maintained their rejection of his asylum claim, despite his worsening mental health and “chronic suicidal thoughts”.
The man, who cannot be named to protect his safety, was driven to attempt suicide when he was told that the Customs and Immigration Department would not review their rejection of his asylum claim and now faces an anxious wait whilst the Royal Court reaches its final decision on whether he can stay in the island.
The case was previously adjourned in September to give Customs and Immigration enough time to make a fresh decision on the claim for asylum after reviewing the man’s psychological report in detail, but returned to the Royal Court yesterday.
The basis of the man’s claim for asylum in Jersey is complicated by the fact that he has already been granted refugee status in a mainland European country, but says that he is “genuinely fearful for his life” there due to further persecution he has faced.
If the Royal Court were not to give the man leave to stay in Jersey, he would therefore be sent back to this European country, not back to Syria.
This was the point made against allowing the man to stay in Jersey by Legal Advisor Steven Meiklejohn. He told the Court: “The applicant faces a return not to Syria, but to ostensibly a safe country.” This, he said, was a marked difference in this case in comparison with asylum seekers who face being sent “back to the authorities who terrorised them and tortured them before they left”.
Advocate Meiklejohn argued that the authorities in the European country have made it clear that they would welcome the man back and that there are mental health facilities available to him there.
In contrast, the man’s lawyer, Advocate Sarah Dale, made the point that any mental health treatment for his ongoing post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression “will be of limited value” while he is forced to live in the country where he receives the persecution that exacerbates these issues. She described this approach as “treating the symptoms, not the underlying problem.”
Pictured: The case returned to the Royal Court after immigration officials stood by their decision to reject the man's asylum claim.
While acknowledging that the country has good mental health care available, she said that he will not make any progress due to feeling "unsafe" there.
As the situation stands, and given the fact her client has made three suicide attempts since August, Advocate Dale argued that should he be sent back to the European country the only way to prevent him from committing suicide would be by “keeping him detained in a hospital” where he would be subject to “constant monitoring” – a solution she also argued is against his human rights.
Concluding, Advocate Dale said: “The overriding obligation for this Court is to consider his human rights” and, she argued, that his being sent back to the European country “would be in breach of his human rights."
Deputy Bailiff Tim Le Cocq, presiding, has deferred his judgment on the case so that he can review his notes from the adjourned hearing in September before reaching a decision.
The order to send the man back to Europe is on hold in the meantime.
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