Tamil asylum seekers can stay in Britain after threatening to commit suicide if deported
By Matthew Hickley
Last updated at 1:36 AM on 04th May 2009
Lord Justice Moses: The senior Appeal Court judge was one of three to make the decision
Two Tamil asylum seekers have won the right to stay in Britain after they threatened to commit suicide if deported.
Three Appeal Court judges ruled that sending the brother and sister back to Sri Lanka to kill themselves would breach their human rights.
But Home Office ministers are furious at the ruling, which they fear will become a precedent offering an easy way for any would-be refugee or illegal immigrant to stay in the UK.
Until now, the courts have considered the likelihood of torture or mistreatment when ruling on deportation cases – rather than a deportee's own fears and state of mind.
Immigration minister Phil Woolas claimed the judgment 'defied common sense' and said he would appeal to the House of Lords.
The Tamils, who have not been named, arrived in Britain in 2003 claiming they had been raped and tortured in prison in Sri Lanka as a result of the decades-long civil war between the government and Tamil separatists.
Their claim for refugee status was rejected but they have battled deportation ever since and won a ground-breaking victory in the Appeal Court last week.
Lord Justice Sedley, Lady Justice Arden and Lord Justice Moses ruled that sending them home would breach their right to life in the European Convention on Human Rights.
The news comes as thousands are expected to attend a rally in Trafalgar Square today calling for an amnesty for illegal foreign workers.
The Home Office maintains that the siblings could safely travel back to Sri Lanka, and that their threat of suicide is based on a 'subjective fear' of mistreatment.
But three Appeal Court judges accepted that if the man and woman were deported then their 'only perceived means of escape' from their situation would be to take their own lives – meaning that sending them home would breach their right to life under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Lord Justice Sedley, sitting with Lady Justice Arden and Lord Justice Moses, said: 'Hope can alleviate intolerable stress. Take away hope and stress may become unbearable.
Phil Woolas: The immigration minister said the decision 'defied common sense'
'Lifting the threat of removal would remove one of the principal sources of depression.'
Britain's courts have until now considered similar deportation legal battles on the facts relating to conditions in the country in question, and the likelihood of torture or mistreatment – rather than a deportee's own fears and state of mind.
By taking the threat of suicide into account the Appeal Court has apparently torn up that principle, attaching far greater legal weight to the deportee's belief about the danger they might face in their homeland.
Phil Woolas said: 'We will appeal and consider our legal options.
'The judgement goes well beyond the intention of Parliament and defies common sense.'
Britain already struggles to enforce deportations in many cases due to human rights laws, with removals often delayed for years by challenges grinding through the courts.
Abu Qatada, the man described as Osama bin Laden's ambassador to Europe, is fighting against his deportation to Jordan by claiming that he faces torture or death.
Details of the latest case emerged as the Government came under further pressure to allow an amnesty for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants living in Britain.
Thousands of people are expected to attend a rally in Trafalgar Square today supporting the 'Strangers into Citizens' campaign, calling for an 'earned amnesty' for illegal foreign workers in the UK – whose number are estimated at between 500,000 and 950,000.
They claim 'regularising' the status of illegal immigrants would increase tax revenues by 1billion a year and prevent exploitation.
Buy opponents claim similar amnesties in other countries have simply attracted even greater numbers of illegal immigrants who arrive in expectation of another amnesty in future.