Asylum for Syrian man could open floodgates, court hears

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A decision on the fate of the asylum seeker, who landed at Anne Port last August suffering from ‘severe sea sickness and sunburn’ and claiming that he fled-war torn Syria and Europe because terrorist group ISIS were hunting him down, is due next week.

During a hearing at the Royal Court on Friday, Advocate Lauren Glynn argued that sending her client back to the European state he originally came from would put his life at risk as the impact on his mental health would be so severe he would be at risk of suicide.

But Advocate Steve Meiklejohn, representing the Jersey Customs and Immigration Service, which originally rejected the man’s appeal for asylum last August, argued that the sad nature of the European refugee crisis was that many asylum seekers were suffering from mental-health issues.

He argued that granting the Syrian man the right to stay in Jersey would leave the Island at risk to ‘emotional blackmail’ from refugees and risk ‘opening the floodgates’.

Advocate Glynn responded: ‘This should not be a political decision – this should be based on an individual’s own particular set of circumstances and cannot be decided simply to avoid a floodgate situation.’

A court order has been issued preventing the naming of the asylum seeker and any countries he has been linked to, except Syria.

The applicant claims his life has been threatened by terror group ISIS in Syria and in Europe. It was heard he has been attacked on numerous occasions in Europe because of his religion and once found a knife stuck in the side of his fridge together with a note purporting to be from ISIS.

It was heard in court that the man’s mental state had become so serious he had tried to take his own life in La Moye prison and has spent time in the Island’s mental-health facility at Orchard House.

Addressing the court, Advocate Glynn said forcing her client to return to Europe would contravene Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention.

She said: ‘We are not saying if he goes back to [the European state] he will be attacked or killed – we do say there is a risk of that – but what we do say is that the impact on his mental health will be so significant he will commit suicide.

She added: ‘There is a real and proven risk of a significant and permanent deterioration in his mental health and that would amount to inhumane and degrading treatment under Article 3.

‘He will never feel safe in [the European state] and there is a very real risk he will spend the rest of his life in the care of mental-health services. That cannot be right.’

The lawyer also raised concerns about how Customs and Immigration Service officers conducted an initial interview with her client when he first arrived in Jersey. It was heard that after landing at Anne Port on the east of the Island he went straight to States police headquarters and handed himself in. Customs then took over.

Advocate Glynn said there were ‘serious questions about the way the interview was carried out’. She said her client was told he could have legal advice before an officer allegedly said ‘at the moment today, we are simply here to have a chat’. The man did not take up the offer of legal advice.

Advocate Meiklejohn said submissions that the applicant could spend the rest of his life in mental-health care were ‘going too far’.

He said it was ‘unfortunate that a lot of persons seeking asylum will have had difficult backgrounds and will have mental-health issues as a result’ and added: ‘The applicant is not in an exceptional position.

‘My submission is that the applicant’s fear of ill-treatment is not well founded and there would be measures in place to stop him self-harming or committing suicide.

‘He has had nine months to put forward his case and he has not put forward anything that would make JCIS [Jersey Customs and Immigration Service] doubt that he would be subject to ill-treatment.’

The Deputy Bailiff, Tim Le Cocq, was presiding alongside Jurats Charles Blampied and Elizabeth Dulake.

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