IMMIGRATION/HUMAN RIGHTS: EM (Lebanon) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2008] UKHL 64, [2008] The Times October 24

28 OCT 2008

(House of Lords; Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Lord Carswell and Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood; 22 October 2008)

On the basis of the mother's case that on her return to Lebanon she and her 7 year old son would be separated permanently under Lebanese law, and that the violent father, who had been imprisoned in Lebanon for his failure to support the son, would be given physical custody of the child, the House of Lords quashed the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal decision that her removal to Lebanon would not breach her human rights. In the absence of very exceptional circumstances, aliens could not claim any entitlement under the European Convention on Human Rights to remain in England to escape from the discriminatory effects of the system of family law in their country of origin. It was not enough to show that the Lebanese custody regime was arbitrary and discriminatory; the mother had had to show that return to Lebanon would completely deny or nullify her own and the child's right to respect for family life together. The facts were crucial in establishing that a return would destroy family life in this case. The hearing had underscored the importance of ascertaining and communicating to the court the views of a child such as this, however, only in cases of genuine conflict between the interests of the child and the parent was separate representation called for.

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