The UK Home Office was wrong to refuse to reunite child refugees with their families, the country's High Court finds.
Safe Passage, the child rights organisation that launched the legal challenge, said the judgment on Friday offered ‘hope’ to child refugees wanting to join their families in the UK.
More than 500 child refugees had their application to reunite with their family in the UK under the EU’s family reunion rules rejected last year. As a result, the children were left stranded alone in Europe during the global pandemic.
Officials argued that following the UK’s departure from the European Union last year, existing family reunion rules no longer applied. However, judges found the Home Office was wrong to advise case workers to refuse applications simply because they had failed to complete the necessary enquiries in time to meet deadlines under the EU’s rules.
The High Court ruling means the Home Office will now have to reconsider applications it previously rejected.
Safe Passage, which helps refugees access safe routes to asylum, said its legal challenge had already pressured the Home Office to make ‘some improvements’ to its policy which resulted in more separated families being reunited.
“It should never have taken court action for the Home Office to decide applications fairly and lawfully, and we urge the Government to put these wrongs right by swiftly reuniting those refugee families whose applications were refused,” said Jennine Walker, Head of UK Legal and Arrivals at Safe Passage.
Last month, the UK government was warned it could face legal action from authorities on the English coast that say they cannot cope with the number of child migrants arriving from across the Channel.
Kent County Council is looking after more than 400 minors and says ministers should force other areas of Britain to share the burden.