Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Journalist who fled Sudan for fear of being killed over race wins legal challenge to stay in Northern Ireland

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A journalist who fled Sudan with her three children amid fears they would be killed due to her race and political views has won a legal challenge to being removed from Northern Ireland.

The woman, a non-Arab Darfuri who said she was subjected to genital mutilation at the age of five, was seeking to avoid being ordered to return to the Irish Republic where they first claimed refugee status.

Quashing a UK Border Agency decision to send them back across the border, a High Court judge in Belfast today ruled that it was in the family's best interests to remain in Northern Ireland.

Judicial review proceedings were brought by the Sundanese woman, identified only as ALJ, and her children aged 18, 16 and 12.

She gave evidence of being a political journalist and writer who suffered a series of arrests, assaults and even a miscarriage. 

In April 2010 the woman and her children left Sudan in a boat operated by traffickers, the court heard.

Even though they sold their home, car and all belongings to pay the price, her husband had to remain behind because not enough money had been raised for the whole family's passage.

She stated that she now does not know whether he is still alive or dead.

After three weeks at sea the family disembarked in Dublin, moving first into a caravan where they had to eat in a communal canteen.

They were then housed for a year at an allegedly rat-infested hotel in the Republic before being offered accommodation in Co West Meath.

Once her family's bid for refugee status was turned down ALJ was told her family's entitlement to remain in Ireland had expired.

In July 2011 they travelled to Northern Ireland and applied for asylum in the UK.

The High Court challenge was launched after Irish authorities accepted a UK Border Agency request to take them back to conclude asylum proceedings in the Republic.

It was set out how the asylum process in Ireland can take up to five years, with an application for subsidiary protection also taking two years on average.

The family contended that during this period they would face standards that do not comply with European minimum standards for refugees. 

Applicants in Ireland would not be able to work, they would have to live in hostel accommodation with constant intrusions into their privacy and the children, once they reached the age of 16, are not entitled to education, the court heard.

Mr Justice Stephens held that the children's well-being pointed to them being able to remain in Northern Ireland.

Issues on education and the family's ability to live in a separate house formed part of his decision. 

The judge quashed the removal decision and the decision not to assume responsibility for determining the asylum application in the United Kingdom on the basis of a failure to consider the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of the children.

The Secretary of State will now have to identify the best interests of the children and balance those interests against any countervailing considerations.