I joined Wilsons on 1 March 2009 and worked as a senior immigration and asylum caseworker until October 2011, when I became a trainee solicitor. My current workload has a focus on political and gender-related asylum claims by vulnerable clients often victims of torture, trafficking or abuse, including appeals in the First-Tier and Upper Tribunals and Judicial Reviews in the High Court.
This week I successfully stopped the Home Office from removing my client to Malta, secured his release from immigration detention and achieved a successful outcome in the Judicial Review against the Home Office’s certification on third country grounds of my client’s asylum claim.
I first met my client several weeks ago whilst providing advice at one of our detention legal surgeries. He was a young victim of torture from Eritrea who had fled his country and had reached Malta by boat in a state of unconsciousness after a terrifying journey. Despite his experience of torture and trauma, my client was detained for several months in Malta and kept in inhuman and appalling conditions.
My client eventually managed to come to the UK and claimed asylum. He was again detained and removal directions were set for Malta at the same time as he instructed me. The case was about the ‘Dublin II Regulation’, which allows member states of the EU to send back people claiming asylum in their territory to the first safe country in the EU they could or did claim asylum in.
I was faced with the difficult challenge of demonstrating that there were systemic failures and deficiencies in the Maltese asylum system which subjected my client to inhuman and degrading treatment and that the Home Office could not be unaware of this on account of a wide range of reports by international bodies and human rights organisations.
I contacted human rights organisations, academics and solicitors in Malta, obtained my client’s hospital papers from the Jesuit Refugee Service and gathered a huge amount of authoritative reports and sources about the severe deficiencies of the legal asylum system in Malta.
I secured funding and arranged for a doctor to visit my client and produce a psychiatric and scarring report within a very short timeframe. I instructed Counsel to prepare grounds and we identified several judgments in the Swiss, Belgium and German courts which had already stopped removals to Malta on our same legal grounds.
The Home Office failed to make a decision on my lengthy submissions and supporting evidence and we therefore had to apply for a Judicial Review at the High Court . The court ordered that removal directions be cancelled and that the Home Office urgently considered the application for my client’s release. The Home Office agreed to release my client and last week they informed me of their decision to abandon any attempt to remove my client to Malta.
This was a groundbreaking outcome, as the Home Office conceded my client’s case against Malta and agreed to consider his asylum claim in the UK before a substantial decision on the papers was even made by the Court.
We are waiting for a decision in the Italy test cases in the Supreme Court, which could provide a revised legal approach to similar Dublin cases and allow the decision in my client’s Judicial Review to hopefully contribute towards a more consistent agreement by the Home Office not to send asylum seekers back to the inhuman ill-treatment they suffer in countries such as Malta.