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‘Last chance’ for torture victim’s asylum claim

‘Last chance’ for torture victim’s asylum claim

Tuesday 07 May 2019

‘Last chance’ for torture victim’s asylum claim


A Syrian torture survivor’s fate is hanging in the balance after his extended fight to stay in the island has culminated in a crucial final Royal Court hearing to decide the outcome of his asylum claim.

After a lengthy battle lasting a number of months, the Royal Court is to make a final ruling on whether the man – who cannot be named to protect his identity – can stay in Jersey, having fled a European country where he had previously been granted asylum after suffering further persecution there.

Due to these threats to his safety, Express has chosen not to detail the kind of ill-treatment he claims to have suffered in the European country to further protect his anonymity.

The Syrian national made a claim for asylum in the island after coming here illegally, but his application was complicated by the fact he had already attained refugee status elsewhere – prompting the island’s Customs and Immigration Service (JCIS) to decide he should be sent back to mainland Europe.

The Court ruled late last year that there were grounds for the Syrian national to appeal this decision. 

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Pictured: The asylum seeker's case has been the subject of a number of lengthy and technical hearings in the Royal Court.

In his written judgment on the matter, Deputy Bailiff Tim Le Cocq, presiding over this appeal, said: “…It appears to me that there are serious issues to be considered relating to the applicant’s human rights and how those interplay with the asylum regime in these particular circumstances. Should in these circumstances an assessment of the merits of the applicant’s claim have been carried out? There are, it seems to me, arguments on both sides." 

On Friday (3 May), those arguments were heard in the Royal Court in the ‘final’ hearing on the matter, with Advocate Lauren Glynn representing the asylum seeker and Legal Adviser Advocate Steven Meiklejohn appearing on behalf of the Minister for Home Affairs.

Advocate Glynn made the case that, if her client was returned to the European country, “the impact on his mental health… would be so significant that he is likely to commit suicide.”

To back this claim up, Advocate Glynn quoted extensively from a medical report on her client compiled by a clinical psychologist who found that the refugee was “genuinely fearful for his life” in the European country which would aggravate his pre-existing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicidal thoughts. 

The man’s Advocate added that the mental health “treatment needed by [her client] will not be successful if he does not feel safe.”

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Pictured: The refugee's lawyer said that any treatment he receives for his mental health will not be effective "if he does not feel safe."

It is this risk of a significant deterioration in his mental health that Advocate Glynn argued would contravene his human rights by subjecting him to this “inhuman and degrading treatment.”

Advocate Glynn also raised “a serious question” about how the initial interview between her client and Customs was carried out which she said was framed as “a chat” rather than a discussion that could decide her client’s fate. It was because of the Officer’s characterisation of the interview as such, she argued, and them saying that legal advice “was not necessary” that meant he declined being accompanied by a lawyer.

In response, Advocate Meiklejohn reiterated arguments he has made at previous hearings that the European country is “ostensibly safe” and that the authorities there are doing everything within their power to protect the refugee.

The Legal Adviser also drew the Court’s attention to what he termed as “inconsistencies” in the man’s case within his sworn affidavits and interviews which he argued “damages his credibility generally.”

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Pictured: The appeal comes after a decision from Customs and Immigration in Jersey to send the Syrian national back to mainland Europe after he arrived in the island.

Making the case that the man’s “fears are not well founded” due to the fact that there are safeguards in place within the country where he has already attained refugee status that should mean he isn’t granted asylum in Jersey.

Concluding his submission to the Court, Advocate Meiklejohn said that “it is sadly not unusual for asylum seekers to experience these kinds of difficulties” and, despite acknowledging that they are unfortunate, it shouldn’t be used as “emotional blackmail” to gain asylum. This approach, the Legal Adviser urged that the Court should shy away from “opening the floodgates” in this respect.

Replying to this assertion, Advocate Glynn said that this was taking things “too far,” reminding the Court that: “This should not be a political decision this should be a decision about an individual’s own circumstances and cannot be decided simply to avoid what my learned friend referred to as ‘a floodgate situation’.” 

The Deputy Bailiff, sitting with Jurats Blampied and Dulake, informed the Court that they would be holding off on making their decision until a later date. 

The order to send the man back to Europe is on hold in the meantime.

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