The founders of the international protection system in Europe would take the view “we, as a people” have “badly failed” a Somalian doctor made subject of a deportation order after being rendered homeless and unable to work here for five years, a High Court judge has said.
Ms Justice Tara Burns made the remark in a judgment quashing an order made by the Minister for Justice for deportation of the 32-year-old woman to Hungary.
The woman came here in February 2016 and has been homeless since May 2016 when she was required to leave direct provision accommodation after it was decided she could not seek permission to remain here because she previously secured refugee status in Hungary.
Irish Cancer Society
Her only income is €50 every two weeks from St Vincent de Paul. She works voluntarily as a translator for members of the Muslim and Somalian community, assists them with medical appointments and also works as a volunteer with the Irish Cancer Society.
Outlining the background, Ms Justice Burns said, having qualified as a doctor in Ukraine, the woman returned to her native Somalia to work as a junior doctor in a hospital in Mogadishu.
She was subjected to serious threats from a Jihadist fundamentalist group because, as a female, she worked and did not wear a full burqa. Fearing for her life, she fled Somalia and returned to Ukraine on a student visa. When that expired, friends paid smugglers to get her into Hungary where she was required to apply for asylum or be deported to Ukraine where she faced jail.
Homeless in Hungary
She secured refugee status in Hungary in 2015 but because she had no accommodation, was unable to find work. She was housed in homeless shelters with men and women with significant addiction issues, was physically assaulted by a man, feared sexual assault and experienced constant racist abuse.
In an affidavit, she said the Hungarian social department told her they could not give her anywhere to live. “I felt isolated and alone as a young Muslim woman and lived in constant fear of violence, including sexual violence, and for my life.”
The Minister, the judge noted, had not disputed the woman’s account of her experiences in Hungary.
The woman left Hungary and came here in February 2016 but was told her application for asylum could not be considered because she already had refugee status from an EU country. She had to leave direct provision accommodation in May 2016 and has been homeless since but sometimes stays with people she had met in direct provision.
Proposal to deport
In 2017, she applied for permission to remain and her solicitors were told the way to go about that was for a proposal to deport to issue in response to which she could make representations.
A proposal to deport was issued in June 2017 and she made representations which were not responded to despite several reminders from her solicitors issued during 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Her representations included “excellent” references from academics and medical personnel in Cork where she was staying, the judge noted. A medical report in 2019 stated she had been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder with a strong sense of despair and hopelessness about her situation.
Integrity of system
She took High Court proceedings after being notified in February 2020 of a proposal to deport her to Hungary in the interests of public policy and the common good in maintaining the integrity of the asylum and immigration system.
In her challenge, she argued, inter alia, she was at risk of inhuman and degrading treatment if deported to Hungary and the Minister had failed to properly consider country of origin information (COI) relating to Hungary’s treatment of asylum seekers.
In her judgment, Ms Justice Burns held the Minister incorrectly assessed the COI and failed to consider whether the presumption the woman’s fundamental rights would be upheld in Hungary had been rebutted. The Minister also failed to properly consider the woman’s employment prospects here, she found.
The deportation order was vitiated by those errors and must be quashed, she ruled.
Given those findings, the judge said she was not addressing the woman’s “impressive” argument the Minister erred in finding she would not be subject to inhuman and degrading treatment in Hungary if deported there. She also granted the woman her legal costs.