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Court reveals reasons why it refused asylum seeker’s appeal

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THE Royal Court has revealed its reasons for denying a Syrian refugee’s appeal against a decision that refused him asylum in Jersey, despite concerns for his safety and his reported suicidal tendencies.

The asylum seeker came ashore at Anne Port

The man, who arrived in Jersey at Anne Port aboard a dinghy in August, appealed against the decision which, according to the documents, began with a ‘misleading’ interview when he was first taken into custody by the Jersey Customs and Immigration Service.

However, the judgment shows that, even if that initial interview had been conducted differently, the Court remains of the view that the the minister’s decision to return the man known as ‘X’ to the European country from which he had fled would have remained the same.

The judgment observed that X was not made aware that his first interview with Customs officers could result in a decision being made regarding his asylum claim, and as such, he did not fully understand his situation when forgoing the right to legal representation and access to an interpreter.

‘We make no observations at this point about the detail of the interview but we note that it does not appear, in the context of discussing the need for legal advice or indeed for an interpreter, to have been made clear to the applicant that as a result of what he said in interview the decision may have been made to deny him his claim for asylum and return

him to the European jurisdiction,’ the judgment stated.

‘We think he may have been under the mistaken belief for all or for part of the interview that he was not at any immediate risk of a decision being made.’

A spokesman for the service told the JEP that Customs officers had noted this point, and that it would be ‘taken on board’ for future operations.

‘The Jersey Customs and Immigration Service notes the content of the judgment of the Royal Court in relation to this particular case and welcomes the outcome that JCIS was correct to refuse asylum and not substantively consider the applicant’s case because he was able to be returned to a safe country in continental Europe,’ he said.

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‘JCIS is mindful of the comments from the court relating to a discrete aspect of the procedure, which will be taken on board when considering any changes in operating procedures for the future.’

The Syrian national, who is not allowed to be named or associated with any country other than Syria, arrived in Jersey illegally last summer.

Having landed at Anne Port in a dinghy, X voluntarily presented himself to police and was immediately transferred to the custody of the Jersey Customs and Immigration Service for interview.

This resulted in an initial decision to deny his asylum claim, which he was then given permission to appeal in September 2018.

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At that point, X was granted temporary conditional release and initially lived in private accommodation, according to the documents.

He then moved to Orchard House and then to Evans House, which is owned by the Shelter Trust.

Due to ‘apparent difficulties with his accommodation and without an alternative address’, X was finally transferred to La Moye Prison on 5 March.

The judgment emphasises that ‘anxious consideration’ has been given to the basis of X’s appeal, which rests on his claim that ‘non-State agents’ in the European country where he has already been granted refugee status pose a threat to his life.

As a result, it has been claimed in X’s appeal against the minister’s decision that the prospect of him being repatriated to the country in question has caused him to become suicidal and, reportedly, to have made attempts on his life while in the Island awaiting the court’s decision.

The documents refer to X’s account of his ‘arrest, detention, interrogation and extreme torture’ at the hands of the Syrian military, and his subsequent claims to have been targeted by extremist groups within the European country in which he was living before attempting to gain asylum in Jersey.

‘His affidavit depicts a situation where he has whilst in the European jurisdiction, in effect, lived a life of fear and as a recluse,’ the papers quoted from supporting documents.

‘Whilst away from his home for a short time, in 2017, he returned to find it had been vandalised and a knife was left on a table with a letter purporting to be from ISIS.’

However, it was demonstrated in the 32-page judgment that the denial of X’s judicial review of the decision to not grant him asylum explicitly took into account these claims, as well as further assertions that X had developed ‘suicidal ideation’ due to the prospect of being repatriated to the country in question.

It was the first judicial review in an asylum case to ever be heard in Jersey.

The court said that the European jurisdiction where he currently has refugee status is considered, by the court and under relevant EU human rights legislation, to be safe and able to provide the necessary level of healthcare, including any appropriate psychiatric interventions.

A further finding of the judgment was that there is a ‘high threshold’ for overturning asylum refusals on the grounds of suicide risk, which has been established in comparable cases, and which X’s case failed to meet.

‘What then of the subjective fear of the applicant were he to be returned to the European jurisdiction and the enhanced risk that he would commit suicide?’ the judgment asked.

‘We accept that he has presented as exhibiting suicidal ideation and we further accept that he has made apparent attempts on his life in Jersey.

‘There is, however, in such cases a high threshold to be passed in matters of potential suicide and looking at the authorities cited to us it seems to us that a case of the extreme nature of Y and Z [the legal precedent ‘Y and Z v Home Secretary, 2009’], for example, is the type of case that passes that high threshold.’

Under Jersey’s immigration rules, an asylum seeker can be granted refugee status in Jersey if the Home Affairs Minister believes that ‘refusing his application would result in the applicant being required to go in breach of the Geneva Convention, to a country in which his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group’.

However, according to Rule 345 of the Jersey Immigration Rules, senior Customs officers or the Home Affairs Minister have the power to refuse asylum without a case being heard by a judge if they are ‘satisfied that there is a safe country to which an asylum applicant can be sent’.

Judicial review is seen as the last possible recourse in cases of alleged maladministration or where someone wishes to challenge the decision of a public body when every other statutory means of appeal has been exhausted.

Court proceedings for a judicial review are undertaken by the Judicial Greffe. Legal advice and representation are required for anyone embarking on the process.

Sam Le

By Sam Le
Journalist

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