Belfast Telegraph

Refugee reporter's asylum boost: Court rules Sudanese woman and kids can't be forced back to Republic

By Alan Erwin

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 aged five, was seeking to avoid being ordered to return to the 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 yesterday ruled that it was in the family's best interests to remain in Northern Ireland.

Judicial review proceedings were brought by the Sudanese woman, identified 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 a miscarriage.

In April 2010 the woman and her children left Sudan in a boat operated by traffickers, the court heard. Her husband had to remain behind. She stated that she does not know is he is still alive.

After three weeks at sea the family disembarked in Dublin.

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. The family contended that during this period they would face standards that do not comply with the EU refugee minimum.

Applicants in Ireland would not be able to work, they would have to live in hostel accommodation and the children, at age 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.

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

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