Updates, commentary, training and advice on immigration and asylum law

Home Office presses to remove severely ill 6 year old child


Older content is locked

A great deal of time and effort goes into producing the information on Free Movement, become a member of Free Movement to get unlimited access to all articles, and much, much more


By becoming a member of Free Movement, you not only support the hard-work that goes into maintaining the website, but get access to premium features;

  • Single login for personal use
  • FREE downloads of Free Movement ebooks
  • Access to all Free Movement blog content
  • Access to all our online training materials
  • Access to our busy forums
  • Downloadable CPD certificates

A child referred to in court only as “Maya” is six years old. She has Spina Bifida and is very severely disabled. She also has severe learning difficulties and extremely complex needs. For the last five years she has received highly specialised medical treatment and has attended a special school in Enfield which provides her with a very high level of support. The situation of Maya and her family is a hard one.

It is a situation made all the harder by the twin facts that Maya is Algerian and that the Home Office want to send Maya back there.

Royal Courts of Justice
By cheri228

As is recorded in the judgment of the Court of Appeal in AE (Algeria) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] EWCA Civ 653], when Maya was born the available healthcare in Algeria was incapable of meeting her needs. She and her mother were granted a UK visa in 2009 specifically in order to receive medical care at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Even now, although Maya would not die if removed to Algeria, it is accepted that the differentials in relation to medical, social and educational support as between this country and Algeria are very substantial indeed.

Article 3

Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides:

No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

As discussed previously, this has been held previously to prohibit removal of very ill people who are close to death: N v UK. However, the test is now considered to be an extremely high one, albeit one that the UK courts plan to revisit in the near future. It is now accepted, though, that there is a different threshold of suffering to be applied in cases of children rather than adults.

Giving the leading judgment, Lord Justice Maurice Kay, who recently granted permission in some other health cases on this point, took the view that the facts of this case did not come close to showing a breach of Article 3. He therefore swiftly moves to consider Article 8 of the Convention instead.

Article 8

Recent cases have indicated that there is much more scope for succeeding under Article 8 than under Article 3, although only in certain quite narrow factual scenarios. Given the legal background, the possibility that some cases will succeed and the obvious importance of the issue for Maya and her family, this was a case that needed to be very carefully determined.

Unfortunately, it was not. The determination of the Upper Tribunal is sloppy and contradictory. The judge, who is not identified, accepted that it was in Maya’s best interests “medically” to remain in the UK but went on to use a double negative to find that it had “not been shown not to be in the children’s best interest for them to be returned to Algeria”. The judge then seems to conflate Articles 3 and 8 by referring to “established thresholds”, suggests that best interests cannot really mean obtaining the best possible medical care because that would render the established legal test “inadmissible” before going on to leave a sentence incomplete.

The Article 8 case was remitted back to the Upper Tribunal for it to be decided again.

The judgment reiterates that some medical treatment expulsion cases can succeed under Article 8.

Relevant articles chosen for you
Picture of Colin Yeo

Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.


One Response

  1. (sigh) I guess this is a good news/bad news kind of thing. The good news is that it was sent back. The bad news is that it wasn’t considered fit for direct decision by the Court of Appeal as completely and utterly obvious. How anyone can think that it is in the child’s best interests to return to Algeria baffles me. And, once it has been accepted that is in the child’s best interests to stay in the UK, how on earth can that be outweighed by immigration control?