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Kurdish refugee ‘cannot take daughter to Iraq’, High Court rules

A 12 year-old girl cannot accompany her mother on a trip to Iraq, the Family Court has ruled.

In the recently published Re M (A Child), the mother and father were both ethnic Kurds from Iran. Sitting in the High Court, Her Honour Judge Robertshaw noted:

“Their English is limited and they have each had the assistance of interpreters throughout this hearing.”

The father originally fled Iran in 2012, after a warrant was issue for his arrest. He had been accused by the government of involvement with the illegal Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI). He arrived in the UK as a refugee and was eventually granted asylum. He has leave to remain the UK until August this year.

The mother followed with their daughter, ‘M’, in 2014. She was also given limited leave to remain but her relationship with the father failed not long after her arrival in England. M remained with her mother under a child arrangements order.

The parents both live among the Kurdish community in Britain and plan to eventually apply for British citizenship.

Early last year, the father become aware that the mother planned to travel with M to Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdistan region of Iraq to meet up with her mother, sister and other members of her family, who would travel across the border from Iran for the family reunion. The father applied for a prohibited steps order that would forbid the mother from taking M with her.

Judge Robertshaw explained:

“He believes that Kurdistan is very unstable and dangerous, that M’s life and safety would be in danger if she travelled to Kurdistan, particularly in view of his previous involvement with the PDKI and that the mother would travel with M from Kurdistan to Iran, where the risks would be even greater, and that they will not return.”

The mother’s passport was confiscated on a temporary basis and a port alert was also issued.

But, after considering the evidence, Judge Robertshaw concluded that that that the father’s had been motivated by jealousy because M had refused to make the same trip with him a few years earlier, a visit in which M would have been exposed to the same risks he was now professing concern for.

She did not doubt the mother’s sincerity, her insistence that she would return to England, or M’s genuine desire to go, but declared:

“I know that my decision will come as a bitter disappointment to M and to the mother, but M’s welfare is my paramount consideration and I must consider whether or not the benefits to her of having time and communion with her maternal family outweigh the risks to her health and safety. In my judgment, they do not. The risks for M are just too great to enable the court to permit M to go to Kurdistan at this time.”

The mother would still be free to travel to Kurdistan herself she was able to make suitable arrangements for her daughter, Judge Robertshaw explained.

You can read the full ruling here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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