Wednesday 4th April 2018
The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Amber Rudd, has accepted that the asylum claims of seven-year-old deaf boy and his family are the responsibility of the UK government and that the family should not be removed to Germany from the UK.
The concession comes at the very last minute – after the Home Office tried to remove the boy and his family from the UK with just one week’s notice in January 2017- and after 15 months of legal proceedings.
Lawand’s case has attracted significant media attention. Born profoundly deaf, he has been unable to communicate in sign or spoken language since his birth. He arrived in the UK in a traumatised state after fleeing his home in Northern Iraq with his family, travelling by boat to Greece and living for a year in a camp in Dunkirk in France where his cochlear implant was broken, meaning he lived for a period of time in a completely silent world with no means of communication. His final journey to the UK involved travelling for over 10 hours in darkness in a lorry from France. He has, since his arrival, been enrolled at the Royal School for the Deaf in Derby where, for the first time, he started to learn to communicate, and where he began making significant progress.
Despite his circumstances, age and vulnerability, the Home Office refused and certified Lawand’s asylum and human rights claim under Dublin III Regulations and has proposed to remove him and his family to Germany. He was due to be removed from Heathrow on Monday 16th January but his removal was cancelled after an urgent application was lodged with the Upper Tribunal on Friday 13th January. He was granted permission to continue with his challenge by an immigration judge who said his case was “clearly arguable.” The Home Office, however, continued to contest the case until a few days before it was due to be considered at a final hearing.
The family have received significant support from staff and students at the Royal School for the Deaf in Derby and from the deaf community in Derby. The school argued that removing Lawand from the UK at this stage in his linguistic and emotional development would cause him irreparable harm. Leading deaf experts agreed. Professor Bernice Woll of University College London advised that Lawand may never learn to communicate if removed from his current environment; and leading deaf psychologist Professor Kyle of University of Bristol advised that he would suffer significant emotional harm if removed from his current environment in the UK because of his chronic trauma and history of limited language exposure.
Lawand’s claim was supported by children’s charity DeafKidz International as well as refugee organisation ABC.
A petition to the Home Secretary to reconsider her position in relation to the case gained over 12,000 signatures in a number of weeks. However, it took nearly 15 months for the Home Office to settle the case and finally accept responsibility for the family.
Lawand’s father Rebwar has expressed his relief and delight at the news of not facing removal to Germany. He said
I am very happy and grateful to my lawyers and to everyone who supported us and who never gave up the fight to help my son Lawand.
Head-Teacher of the Royal School for the Deaf in Derby Helen Shepherd has said:
Lawand is a very special boy who has been through a great deal. We are thrilled at the news which will allow Lawand to continue the progress he is making in our school and will allow us to continue to support his education, well-being and development.
Lawand and his family will now have to wait a further six months before the Home Office decide whether or not they can remain in the UK in the long-term.
Lawand and his family were represented in this case by solicitor Aisha Abdul Latif Fountain Solicitors and barrister Gráinne Mellon of Garden Court Chambers.
For further information please contact Aisha Abdul-Latif of Fountain Solicitors on Tel 01922 645 429 or Chloe Ridyard at Garden Court Chambers on 02079937600.