The Refugee Crisis On Our Doorstep

In a situation that goes from bad to worse, with no end point in sight, there has been one ray of hope.

On 18 January, the Upper Tribunal ruled that three unaccompanied minors and a vulnerable young man with mental health problems, from the camp in Calais, had a bona fide case to be allowed to join relatives already resident in the UK.

Thanks to a legal challenge coordinated by Citizens UK, the Home Office has been told to immediately allow the three children and one adult to join their families.

Hitherto, the Government had been arguing that, under the Dublin III convention, applications for asylum must be made and processed in France. However, the reality is that the French system is broken, and applications from asylum seekers with family already resident in the UK are not being processed and passed on to the UK. In effect, the safe and legal route has been denied to asylum seekers who have done all that has been asked of them.

In a ground-breaking ruling the court accepted that evidence of a written claim to asylum in France was sufficient to prove the children had initially sought safety there, and therefore the court subsequently ruled that instead of waiting for the French Government to ask, the British Government must act. It will now be up to Britain to examine the claims of these specific cases under the Dublin regulation.

This changes the nature of the debate. The Government can no longer hide behind the skirts of a broken system, and must now take action to process asylum claims for those with legitimate legal claims to come to the UK – and we parliamentarians must hold their feet to the fire.

* Shas Sheehan is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.