EU court rules Britain cannot deport Somali convicted of burglary

Judges say the family of the man cannot provide the necessary protection from persecution

Clan-based violence in Somalia was followed by an insurgency by Islamist militants Al Shabab. Reuters
Clan-based violence in Somalia was followed by an insurgency by Islamist militants Al Shabab. Reuters

European judges ruled on Wednesday that Britain could not deport a Somali man who had served a prison sentence for burglary because his family could not be relied on to protect him from persecution.

The man, aged in his 50s and identified only as O.A. in court documents, says he fled Somalia after he was shot, and his wife raped, in the capital Mogadishu during vicious clan-based violence in the 1990s.

The east African country collapsed into anarchy after the military regime of President Siad Barre was ousted in 1991. Brutal fighting continued between rival clan leaders for decades that resulted in millions of Somalis fleeing to other African nations and Europe.

O.A. fled to Kenya and followed his wife to the UK in 2003 after suffering persecution as a member of the minority Reer Hamar clan, according to court documents.

He eventually secured refugee status in Britain but it was revoked in 2016 after he served a prison sentence for burglary and blackmail. His lawyers challenged plans to return him to Somalia.

European judges were asked to make a ruling after British authorities claimed his refugee status could be revoked because he could receive some support and protection from his support network in the region, including a sister in Dubai.

But the judges said that governments, and not families or clans, were responsible for providing support for returnees against potential persecution.

“Mere social and financial support … which is made available to the third country national concerned, is inherently incapable of either preventing acts of persecution or of detecting, prosecuting and punishing such acts,” said the ruling of the European Court of Justice, sitting in Luxembourg.

Even though the UK has left the European Union, it still has to follow EU rulings for cases that started before its formal departure last year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted that he achieved his goal when he struck a deal on future relations with the EU last month that he said ensured European courts had no say in future UK decision-making.

Published: January 20, 2021 09:38 PM

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