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Profile of the week

Aisling Ní Chuinn

Position

I have worked at Wilsons since October 2010 as a Senior Immigration and Asylum Caseworker. Before working at Wilsons. I worked at Refugee and Migrant Justice. I have worked on a wide variety of asylum and human rights cases but my main focus and interest is in assisting detained clients, and particularly female asylum seekers with gender-based persecution claims.

My Week

This week the decision in EM (Eritrea) & Ors [2014] UKSC 12 was handed down by the Supreme Court. There are four linked Appellants in the case, one is my client AE, and another of the four is EM, a client of my colleague’s, Charlie Bagnall. The Supreme Court decision is a very important decision that will help many people. The four Appellants had claimed asylum in the UK and challenged the decision of the Home Office to return them to Italy, on the basis that living conditions in Italy would breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), by amounting to inhuman or degrading treatment. AE is a female Eritrean national who claimed asylum in Italy in 2009 and was granted refugee status. Initially AE was provided with accommodation in Italy but was then left homeless. AE left Italy and travelled to the UK in a lorry. She claimed asylum in the UK but because Italy was the first European country in which she had claimed asylum, she was sent back to Italy in October 2010. AE had no money and no place to live, a common situation for asylum seekers and refugees in Italy. Her terrible ordeal is outlined in paragraphs 13 -16 of the judgement. She went to the authorities several times to ask for accommodation but they said they could not assist her.

Challenges

AE made her way back to the UK in April 2011. I met AE in Yarl’s Wood detention centre in May 2011. We submitted an application to the Home Office on the basis that a removal to Italy would breach her rights under Article 3 ECHR. The Home Office refused AE’s application and we lodged a judicial review application to challenge the Home Office decision, with counsel David Chirico. AE was refused permission to apply for judicial review and the High Court refused to grant an injunction to stop her removal to Italy. AE’s removal to Italy was only prevented when at the 11th hour the European Court of Human Rights gave a rule 39 indication, prohibiting AE’s removal to Italy until it had considered her case. The Court of Appeal heard AE’s case (and that of EM and the other two Appellants) but stated that because Italy was another European country, to succeed on an Article 3 claim, it had to be shown that there were systemic deficiencies in the asylum procedure and that even ‘powerful evidence of individual risk’ (such as in AE’s case) was of no avail. The Supreme Court have disagreed with the Court of Appeal and stated that the correct test to apply for a European country is the same Article 3 test that is applied in every other area of human rights law, and is one which takes into account an individual’s personal circumstances including their previous experiences in a country. That is what has been argued in AE’s case (and that of the other Appellants) all along.

The Future

AE’s case will now return to the Administrative Court for her case will be considered afresh in light of the judgment of the Supreme Court. I hope that her case will be resolved quickly and that she will be granted status in the UK, so that she can finally feel safe and start thinking about the future.