Family reunited at St Pancras
Date posted: 6 October 2016
On Tuesday 3 October 2016, Juliane and Jennine had the enormous pleasure of welcoming our clients, a father and his two boys aged 10 and 8, as they arrived in the UK on the Eurostar from the migrant camp in Dunkerque to be reunited with their family and to claim asylum. Our client’s wife, and their other two children, a son aged 9 and a daughter who is just under 2 were there to meet them. The family had been separated for almost a year, and endured incredible hardship due to the systemic problems inherent in the UK and the EU’s asylum systems. The excitement in the childrens’ faces, the tight embrace between husband and wife, the whole family’s joy, tears and laughter were a wonderful reminder of what being an asylum lawyer means and what a privilege it is to do the work we do.
To say our clients’ journey had been long and hard is an understatement. The family are originally from the Kurdish region of Iraq. They were forced to flee their village suddenly in June 2014, when Daesh took control of the area. They travelled by land to Turkey, where their youngest daughter was born in a refugee camp near the Syrian border at the start of 2015, then across Europe to France, where they finally reached the migrant camp in Dunkerque in late summer 2015. They endured inhumane and life-threatening conditions in the camp before making the difficult decision to separate: the mother would try to reach the UK with the two children who were suffering the most with injuries and health problems because of the appalling conditions in the camp.
When we met the father on a visit to Dunkerque in early 2016, he had not heard from his wife for days and was sick with worry. Luckily, she was traced and had safely arrived in the UK. Over the next months we prepared a detailed application to the Home Office in which we argued that the UK had an obligation under both the EU Dublin Regulations and under the Human Rights Act to arrange for our clients to be brought to the UK, to join their family members – who in the meantime had formally be recognised as refugees – and to claim asylum themselves. Our clients’ case should have been straightforward. The common European asylum framework known as the “Dublin system” clearly establishes that the UK should have taken responsibility for our clients’ asylum claims and worked closely with the French authorities in order to ensure the family’s unity. However, in practice, as the Upper Tribunal found in the ground breaking case brought earlier this year by the Migrant Legal Project and Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, the Dublin system was simply not working, with both the UK and France were failing to meet their legal obligations.
We prepared a large amount of evidence to show the Home Office the appalling and dangerous camp conditions in which our client and his two young boys were living, and the impact that the long separation was having on the mental health and well-being of all the family. Yet despite the compelling and compassionate circumstances of the case, our clients waited six long weeks before the Home Office finally accepted responsibility for their asylum claims, and two more months after that before the French authorities eventually made the arrangements for them to board a train and travel to the UK.
Our client told us yesterday that the wait was so long, that he nearly lost all hope that he would be reunited with his wife and children. When we heard the arrival time of the Eurostar train on which our clients would be travelling from Calais, everyone involved in supporting the family both in Dunkerque and here in the UK felt an unspeakable relief.
The meeting at St. Pancras station on Tuesday morning was the end to a long journey from Iraq, but for our clients nonetheless only the start of their claim for protection and their life in the UK.