This is decidedly weird. The High Court were dealing with an application under the Hague Convention for an order to return the child to Belgium. The father alleged that the mother had abducted the child and that the child should be returned to Belgium, where the Belgian Courts could then make the decision about where the child should live.
The problem was, that before anyone started to get stuck into whether there had been an abduction, whether there were defences under the Hague Convention and Child Abduction Act that might mean that the child should not be returned and so forth, that Belgium would not let the mother and child into their country anyway.
Re NA (dismissal of application under Hague Convention) 2015
The entire family had come from Iran. They left Iran in 2008, made their way to Belgium and made a claim for asylum. That claim was refused and there was substantial litigation about the appeals process. They tried again afresh in 2011, and again their claim was refused.
The mother and child came to England in 2013, and she applied for asylum here (she and her son have been given leave to remain in the UK for five years – this happened whilst these proceedings were taking place). Father applied two years later for an order compelling the child’s return to Belgium.
Whether there had been an abduction of the child or not, can the Court order someone to return the child to Belgium when the Belgian authorities had ruled twice that the family had no legal right to be in Belgium ? Nor could the Home Department of the UK remove the mother and child to Belgium – (prior to granting their leave to remain they could have removed them back to Iran, but not back to Belgium)
- There was indirect contact between the father and the child on occasions during 2014. In June 2015 the father issued an application for the return of his son to Belgium pursuant to the Hague Convention, thereby commencing the present proceedings. It is to be noted that that application was issued a little more than two years after the removal of the child from Belgium, and accordingly the application would in any event have raised a lively question as to whether it was “demonstrated that the child is now settled in its new environment” within the meaning of, and for the purpose of, Article 12 of the Convention. That issue and, indeed, any other “defences” under the Hague Convention has never been considered, nor determined, by the court; for in the meantime the question arose whether, even if ordered to return the child to Belgium, the mother could, in fact, lawfully do so, because it appeared that neither she nor the child would be permitted to enter Belgium. As I have indicated, that difficulty arose because the period within which the state of Belgium would have been required to take back the mother and child pursuant to the regulation Dublin II had long since elapsed. It appeared, therefore, that the mother herself could not lawfully voluntarily return with the child to Belgium. It appeared also that the Secretary of State for the Home Department could not now remove the mother and child to Belgium, although it might have been open to the Secretary of State to remove them to Iran, being the state of which they are both citizens.
- During the last few months there have been several brief hearings before the court, and most recently on two earlier occasions before myself, whilst efforts have been made fully to explore the immigration status of the mother and child here; the intentions of the Secretary of State with regard to removing them; and the question whether the mother and child could be forcibly removed to Belgium or, indeed, voluntarily return to that state. One possibility that was mooted was that, upon application to it, the state of Belgium might exercise a discretion to permit the mother and child to return to and enter Belgium on the basis of a “family reunion visa”. The difficulty with that particular suggestion was and is that there is no question of “family reunion”, because the mother makes crystal clear that she is not willing to return to live with, or in any way be “reunited” with, the father.
- Against that background I made an order dated 28th October 2015, which anyone with a proper interest in this matter could read for its full terms and effect. There were two recitals, which essentially recorded the position as it was or appeared to be at that date, namely:
“1. Upon it now appearing from the reply from the Home Office dated 28th October 2015 to the request for information in Form EX660 that the mother and child cannot now be returned to Belgium pursuant to the Council Regulation Dublin II, and that the Home Office is now substantively considering the mother’s and child’s claim for asylum, which (it appears) are likely to result in the Home Office either granting asylum or seeking to return the mother and the child to Iran;
2. And upon the present evidence from the Belgian authorities and in relation to Belgium appearing to indicate that the mother and child could be granted admission on a ‘family reunion visa’, but that there cannot be a ‘family reunion’ as the mother would not agree to living again with the father, and would not voluntarily agree to the child living with the father; but that it is possible (but speculative) that the Belgian authorities might permit the mother and the child lawfully to enter Belgium (without passports) on some alternative basis.”
- Upon the basis of those recitals, this case was further adjourned until today, and my order made plain, in summary and in effect, that the father had an opportunity meantime to obtain evidence and material from the state of Belgium to the effect that the mother and child would both be permitted lawfully to enter and remain in Belgium and that any fresh application by the mother and child for asylum in Belgium would be considered by that state. The order made clear that the documents and material required to be produced by the father would have to include an original authentic official actual laissez-passer or similar document in respect of each of the mother and the child, which would actually permit each of them lawfully to enter and remain in the state of Belgium.
- Over six weeks have elapsed since that order, and the father has not been able to obtain or produce any such material or documents and, quite frankly, it would seem that there is no realistic prospect now of the Belgian authorities permitting this mother and child to return to and enter Belgium on any basis.
- Meantime, there has been a further very significant development. By a decision letter dated 16th November 2015 the Home Office informed the mother and the child that they have been granted asylum in the United Kingdom for a period of five years, with leave to remain here until 12th November 2020. The letter makes clear that if they wish to remain after that date, they must make an application for further leave before the leave now granted expires.
- So, the position now is that the ability of the mother and child to remain here for the next five years is no longer tenuous but has been granted. There is, therefore, no further imminent possibility or prospect of the mother and child being forcibly removed by the Secretary of State to Iran. Equally, there is no longer the slightest scope for the application of Council Regulation Dublin II or the mother’s claim for asylum being considered in Belgium, since she and the child have been granted asylum here.
- In those somewhat unusual circumstances I simply dismiss this claim for a return of the child summarily to Belgium pursuant to the Hague Convention, on the short grounds that it is not practicable or possible for either the mother or the court or, indeed, anyone else to give lawful effect to an order if one was made for the return of this child to Belgium. As I have indicated, there may have been a range of other “defences” to the application, but in the circumstances I have not given any consideration to them and dismiss this application on the short basis that I have described.
All very peculiar.