Refugee status means boy cannot be returned to father

child abduction

A now 11 year-old boy cannot be returned to his father in Pakistan becaue he and his mother have been granted asylum in the UK.

The child in question, ‘A’, was born in Pakistan. Both his parents are also Pakistani nationals. They married in 2002 and A arrived nearly four years later.

Eventually the father moved to Saudi Arabia for work and the mother later moved there with A to join him.

Later, in 2014, the mother travelled with A to Britain for a visit agreed with the father, but she did not catch her scheduled return flight. The father followed her here and confronted her. In the resulting row he was arrested and returned to Saudi Arabia shortly afterwards. The mother and A have remained in Britain ever since.

She applied for asylum here and shortly afterwards the father issued divorce proceedings in Pakistan. A began to attend school in the UK, and a couple of months later, the mother and son’s visitor visas to the UK expired.

Meanwhile the father began legal proceedings for the return of A. Ms Justice Russell ordered a Cafcass report into the family’s situation while the mother applied for A to be granted asylum in the UK in addition to herself.

The father’s application for the return of his son also proceeded. In July 2015, the former couple reached an agreement in which she undertook to return the boy and withdraw both asylum applications.

But she did neither. The father applied for enforcement while she tried to have the agreement set aside, claiming she hadn’t “validly consented” to this.

The mother made “serious allegations” about the father and both she and A were granted refugee status. A by then was refusing to see his father. Despite this, a Judge later dismissed her attempt to have the consent order set aside and ordered that the boy be flown back to Pakistan after all.

The mother unsurprisingly sought permission to appeal as well a postponement of the return order.  A, by then nearly ten years old, also expressed clear objections. She was granted both and the case finally reached the Court of Appeal which ruled in her favour. The earlier orders were set aside and the case sent back to the High Court of a rehearing.

There Mr Justice Hayden considered the impact of the mother’s grant of asylum on her dispute with the father. He concluded that:

“…it seems clear that the grant of refugee status to a child by the [Secretary of State for the Home Department] is an absolute bar to any order by the Family Court seeking to effect the return of a child to an alternative jurisdiction.”

But the case was not concluded. Future hearings were to consider the issue of visits between the father and A and his allegations that she had made misleading claims in her asylum application.

Read more here.

Image by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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