A decision by the British High Court to grant safe passage to the United Kingdom to a 13-year-old Eritrean immigrant could save thousands of unaccompanied child refugees across Europe, according to the Guardian. On December 19th, the Court ordered Dawit (not his real name), who accidentally got separated from his mother and brother in the Mediterranean Sea, to be allowed to enter the United Kingdom immediately and reunited with his aunt in north London.
Experts say the ruling is likely to have a major impact on thousands of unaccompanied child refugees as it allows courts to intervene whenever the Dublin Regulation, created to reunite unaccompanied child refugees with their families, fails to protect the “best interests” of helpless minors.
“The courts have given the government legal, but also moral direction, in how they should approach this serious and desperate issue,” Rabbi Janet Darley of Citizens U.K., a community organizing movement, said.
Dawit, together with his mother and brother, embarked on the perilous journey in April 2016, but accidentally boarded the wrong boat leaving his only kin behind on the Egyptian shore.
Witnesses recounted that the frightened 13-year-old boy attempted to jump overboard as the overcrowded boat left the Egyptian port en route to Italy.
Unfortunately, his mother and brother later died in the Mediterranean after the boat they were traveling in allegedly broke apart and sank.
Court documents used by Dawit’s lawyers say the teenager has found it hard to process the news of the death of his mother and brother and appears dazed and in disbelief.
Medical assessments have also revealed that Dawit is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which his lawyers say continues to worsen each day he is separated from his aunt.
Dawit, who has been living in a refugee camp in Rome, Italy, is now expected to arrive in the United Kingdom in a few days, where he will stay with his aunt.
Dawit’s case has raised questions regarding the implementation of the Dublin Regulation and the treatment of unaccompanied child refugees by the Home Office, the government department responsible for immigration, counter-terrorism, police, drugs policy, and related science and research.
Dawit’s attorneys wrote to the Home Office twice requesting that the boy be taken to London immediately due to his declining mental state but department officials never responded.
“This case sends a very clear message to European governments and the European commission. Effective systems must be established so that the rights to family reunification in the European regulations and directives are accessible for children,” Dawit’s lawyer, Mark Scott, said.
Dawit’s legal victory comes against the backdrop of a growing refugee crisis as migrants from Africa and the Middle East continue to make dangerous journeys to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea.
BY FREDRICK NGUGI