Children’s safety must be considered by immigration officials

The risk of violence from a parent is one of the factors that
can be considered when children apply for leave to enter the United
Kingdom. This was the decision of the court of appeal on 4 February
2003 in the case of  B and Another v the Home Secretary.

It held that when a decision is made, that considered whether a
child is ‘accommodated adequately’ under rule 297(iv) of the
immigration rules, the Immigration Appeal Tribunal could take into
account the risk of violence from a parent. The rule should not be
interpreted so narrowly that only the physical suitability of the
accommodation is assessed.

The case concerned children who resided with their grandparents
in India, and had done so for all of their lives. They made three
applications for leave to enter the United Kingdom to live with
their parents. In each case they were unsuccessful. This was an
appeal from the last decision of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal
(IAT) on 23 July 2002 to dismiss their appeal from the decision of
the Immigration Adjudicator.

In March 2001 the entry clearance officer dismissed the last of
their applications on the grounds that there would be inadequate
accommodation and maintenance of the children, and a very real
threat of risk of violence from their parents. In coming to this
conclusion he relied upon the following facts:

– Another child of the parents had died in suspicious
– A report submitted by social services revealed that other
children of the parents had been taken into care following physical
assault by both parents

The adjudicator dismissed the subsequent appeal, and the IAT
dismissed the further appeal. The Adjudicator and the IAT both
ruled that rule 297(iv) should be given a wider interpretation to
include factors other than the physical state of the premises in
which the applicants would live.

The court of appeal upheld the IAT’s ruling. Whilst the children
had argued that the rule should be given a narrow interpretation
(rule 297(1)(f) makes express reference to suitable arrangements
for the care of children, yet rule 297(iv) does not; therefore
suitability of child care arrangements was irrelevant when
considering the application of that rule), the court disagreed. It
was a nonsense to interpret the rule in a way that would mean that
a child would be given leave to enter if he was likely to be
subject to physical abuse, even if the accommodation he was going
to be living in was immaculate. That could not have been
parliament’s intention when drafting the rules.

Comment: Following the outcome of this case, the immigration
system needs to have accurate information as to the risk factors
facing children who wish to enter the UK from abroad. Following on
from the recommendations of the Laming Inquiry into the
circumstances of Victoria Climbie’s death, that social work
staff should know how to access information on vulnerable children
from other countries (recommendation No 57), this decision adds to
the requirements for social workers to know, not only how to access
information, but to whom it should be provided.

Bernadette Livesey

Human Rights Solicitor

Walker Morris

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.