Families reunited post-Brexit – RLS celebrates two Dublin transition cases
Photos sent to G by his daughter
Before Brexit, people seeking asylum in Europe with family members in the UK had to make sure that their claims for asylum were registered and requests for family reunification sent to the Home Office, before 01/01/2021. From the beginning of this year, post-Brexit, the UK is no longer a signatory to the Dublin Regulation that makes such family reunification possible.
In Greece, it was a struggle to ensure that requests for Dublin family reunification were sent in time, because of the long delays experienced by people trying to claim asylum and the overburdened Greek Asylum Service offices which are often unresponsive. Particularly those speaking minority languages, such as Tigrinya, struggle to access their right to claim asylum. RLS has seen that some people are offered appointments to register asylum claims over a year away.
For those who managed to request Dublin family reunification before Brexit, there are now limited legal protections. The Dublin Regulation provides the opportunity to request a re-examination of a member state’s refusal decision, but post-Brexit this part of the Dublin Regulation was not ‘saved’. It is therefore no longer possible to request a re-examination when the Home Office refuses someone’s request for family reunification. The only legal remedy is Judicial Review – a British court procedure that few in Greece are familiar with.
Here we share the stories of two people from Eritrea in Greece. Their journeys to reunify with family members in the UK have been long and hard, but eventually victorious. RLS’s team in Athens worked closely with RLS’s Family Reunion From Europe (FRFE) Project in the UK, in order to fight these cases all the way. Without RLS’s intervention these people would have been stranded in Greece, separated from their family in the UK.
G’s young daughter lives in the UK with her mother, who was forced to flee Eritrea during G’s detention as a political prisoner. They did not know whether G was dead or alive but following his escape from prison, G re-established contact with his daughter who came to visit him in Sudan.
Once in Greece, RLS assisted G to request family reunification with his daughter but the Home Office refused because they said they didn't believe that he was her father. The Home Office refused despite photos of the two together, screenshots of their daily contact, his daughter’s baptism certificate naming him as her father, G previously being named as his daughter’s father on her visa application to the UK and statements from G and his daughter’s mother.
RLS Athens referred to our FRFE Project and the case was taken forward by Annette Elder of Elder Rahimi Solicitors and Rebecca Chapman at Garden Court Chambers.
G and his daughter in Sudan, when they last met 3 years ago
A DNA test proved that G was the father of his daughter. The case was initially refused permission to proceed to the UK courts for a Judicial Review hearing but the the legal team fought at an oral hearing and were granted permission to proceed. The Home Office later conceded and re-made their decision, avoiding court and granting G the right to be reunited with his daughter and proceed with his asylum claim in the UK. His daughter is literally counting down the days until he arrives!
T is an elderly woman alone in Greece. Her adult sons are settled in the UK. T explained to the Home Office that she did not want to live her last years alone without family, outside her home country in deplorable conditions. T was living in overcrowded accommodation, sharing a bed with two other women. Psychologically she was suffering and she is partially sighted. Despite her old age and vulnerability her application for UNHCR accommodation in Greece was ignored.
One of T’s daily video calls with her sons
The Home Office rejected her request for family reunification because they did not consider there to be humanitarian reasons for reunifying her with her children. Once again, RLS in Athens referred to RLS’s FRFE project and Neena Acharya at Coram Children’s Legal Centre and Miranda Butler at Garden Court Chambers took this case forward in the UK, procuring expert psychological and country evidence.
As with G, permission for JR was initially refused but won at an oral hearing and the Home Office agreed to re-make their decision without proceeding to court. A positive decision was eventually made by the Home Office and the family are overjoyed.
Photos from T’s youngest son’s visit to Athens – the visit made them miss each other even more!
In the coming weeks, G will meet his daughter again and T will be with her sons once more. We are honoured to have been able to fight alongside these families for their right to be reunited. Thanks to all our staff, referral partners and supporters – without whom such victories wouldn’t be possible.