I.A.A. and Others v. the United Kingdom (no 25960/13) [Article 8], 31 March 2016

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The case of I.A.A. and Others relates to five Somali nationals who comprise 4 biological siblings and an adopted sibling. Their mother left Somalia to join her second husband in 2004 in the UK, where he had been granted refugee status, leaving the applicants in the care of her sister in Somalia. The child of the applicants’ mother and her second husband was granted entry clearance in 2005. In 2006 the applicants moved with their aunt from Somalia to Ethiopia. In 2007, their mother divorced her second husband. In 2008, two of the applicants’ siblings were granted entry clearance to the UK for family reunion, on appeal. Around the same time their mother’s sister returned to Somalia, leaving the applicants in the care of their older sibling, aged 16. The applicants then applied for entry clearance to the UK. This was dismissed by the authorities as well as on appeal. The applicants submitted an application to the ECtHR complaining that the UK government’s refusal to grant them entry into the UK for the purpose of reuniting with their mother violated their right to respect for family life guaranteed by Article 8 ECHR.

The ECtHR reiterated the applicable principles for Article 8 assessments of the balance that must be struck between the competing interests of the individual to develop family life in the UK and the State’s interest in controlling immigration. Considering the facts closely, it found that the applicants’ mother had not fled a situation of armed conflict when she left for UK, but rather made a conscious decision to leave her children in Somalia to join her second husband. It found that while it would undoubtedly be difficult for the applicants’ mother to relocate to Ethiopia to enjoy family life with the applicants, there were no ‘insurmountable obstacles’ or ‘major impediments’ to her doing so. Although she had formerly been married to a refugee, neither she nor any of her children had been granted refugee status and did not claim to be at risk of ill-treatment in Somalia.

While the UK courts had assessed that it would be in the applicants’ best interests to join their mother in the UK, the ECtHR held that although this principle was paramount, it was not a ‘trump card’. It noted that the applicants were no longer young children, had grown up in the cultural or linguistic environment of their country of origin, lived in a family unity in Ethiopia for nine years with older siblings caring for the younger ones, none of them had been to the UK and they had not lived with their mother for over eleven years.

The ECtHR concluded that the domestic courts had not failed to strike a fair balance between the competing interests at stake and the State had not exceeded its margin of appreciation. It thus rejected the application as manifestly ill-founded.

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Best interest of the child
Family member
Family reunification
Family unity (right to)
Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment