Kaur (Children's Best Interests/Public Interest Interface)

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
CourtUpper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber)
JudgeTHE HON. MR JUSTICE MCCLOSKEY
Judgment Date10 Jan 2017
Neutral Citation[2017] UKUT 14 (IAC)

[2017] UKUT 14 (IAC)

Upper Tribunal

(Immigration and Asylum Chamber)

THE IMMIGRATION ACTS

Before

The Hon. Mr Justice Mccloskey, PRESIDENT

Between
Satinder Kaur
Appellant
and
Teh Secretary of State for the Home Department
Representation

For the Appellant: Mr A Alam, of counsel, instructed by Immigration Advisory Services (UK) Ltd (Derby)

For the Respondent: Ms C Patry, of counsel, instructed by the Government Legal Department

Kaur (children's best interests / public interest interface)

(1) The seventh of the principles in the Zoumbas code does not preclude an outcome whereby the best interests of a child must yield to the public interest.

(2) This approach has not been altered by Part 5A of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.

(3) In the proportionality balancing exercise, the best interests of a child must be assessed in isolation from other factors, such as parental misconduct.

(4) The best interests assessment should normally be carried out at the beginning of the balancing exercise.

(5) The “little weight” provisions in Part 5A of the 2002 Act do not entail an absolute, rigid measurement or concept; “little weight” involves a spectrum which, within its self-contained boundaries, will result in the measurement of the quantum of weight considered appropriate in the fact sensitive context of every case.

(6) In every balancing exercise, the scales must be properly prepared by the Judge, followed by all necessary findings and conclusions, buttressed by adequate reasoning.

PART 1
Initial Decision (given orally on 10 October 2016)
1

This appeal has its origins in a decision made on behalf of the Secretary of State dated 30 June 2015. By that decision the Secretary of State refused an application for leave to remain in the United Kingdom based on Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention. That application was made by the Appellant (the mother in the relevant family unit), who is a citizen of India now aged 37 years.

2

The second member of the family unit is the Appellant's partner, who has been in the United Kingdom since 2010. Between the period 2008 and 2011 the couple gave birth to two children. These children are now aged five and seven years respectively. The Appellant appealed to the First-tier Tribunal (“FtT”) against the Secretary of State's refusal decision. The FtT dismissed the appeal. Permission to appeal was granted on a relatively narrow ground relating to the interplay between Section 117B(6)(a) and Section 117D(1) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.

3

The question which arises is whether the FtT fell into legal error in the following way. It is quite clear in my judgment that these provisions contemplate a two stage exercise. The question of whether the second stage is reached depends upon the answer posed to the first question. That question is: is the child in question a qualifying child? The answer to that question is provided by applying the definition that is enshrined in section 117D (1) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (the “2002 Act”). This section makes provision for two possibilities. One is that the person, who must be under the age of 18, is a British citizen. The second is that the person has lived in the United Kingdom for a continuous period of seven years and is, of course, under the age of 18.

4

If neither of those possibilities applies there is no second stage. If either does apply the second stage involves giving effect to the test contained in Section 117B(6)(b) of the 2002 Act. This provision, which, notably, does not apply to those liable to deportation, is another which expresses “ the public interest”, in this instance in negative terms:

“In the case of a person who is not liable to deportation, the public interest does not require the person's removal where –

  • (a) The person has a genuine and subsisting parental relationship with a qualifying child, and

  • (b) it would not be reasonable to expect the child to leave the United Kingdom.”

Also notable is the absence of any accompanying list of factors to which regard must be had in determining what is “ reasonable”. In principle, therefore, decision makers and Judges have a wide margin of appreciation in this respect.

5

On one view the grant of permission to appeal resolves to the arguability of the contention that the FtT arguably erred in law by conflating these two stages: that is one way in which the grant of permission may be viewed. The fundamental question is whether the two separate stages were properly appreciated and applied by the Tribunal. The answer to this fundamental question turns on this Tribunal's consideration and construction of the relevant passages in the decision. These begin at [48] and they continue through to [75].

6

It is trite that the decision must be considered as a whole and not in isolated fragments. Approached in this way I am satisfied that no error of law has arisen. I conclude that the FtT was aware of and gave effect to the two separate stages. The Judge's consideration of the question of British citizenship regarding the two children was in substance confined to the second stage. This was supported by the authority of the decision of the Supreme Court in ZH (Tanzania) and that of EV (Philippines). It matters not as a matter of the correct observance of the doctrine of precedent that, most recently, the Court of Appeal has given effect to EV (Philippines) in the decision of MA (Pakistan) as it would have been bound in any event by the decision in ZH (Tanzania).

[* full citations infra]

7

I conclude therefore that no error of law within the terms of the grant of the permission to appeal has been demonstrated. That would be sufficient to dispose of the appeal and give rise to an order affirming the decision of the FtT but for one consideration. Mr Alam on behalf of the Appellant has canvassed the possibility of seeking permission to apply to amend the grounds of appeal to introduce a new ground. Ms Patry, I will assume, is implacably opposed to that application.

8

Giving effect to the overriding objective and taking into account that there are children involved I consider that the fair and reasonable way of dealing with this is to require Mr Alam to formulate the amended ground in writing. That will be done by 16.00 tomorrow. It will be emailed to the Tribunal and directed to Ms Patry, who will then have the opportunity to respond in writing on, first of all, the question of whether permission to amend the grounds should be granted and secondly responding to the substance of the ground in any event: by 18 October 2016.

9

On this scenario the Tribunal will then, in purely written mode, approach the matter in the following way. First it will decide whether permission to amend should be granted at all. If that yields a negative answer that would be the end of the matter. If the Tribunal is minded to grant permission to amend then I shall consider the amendment on its merits and that will include Ms Patry's full submission. The possibility of a further oral hearing will, in this eventuality, be considered by the Tribunal.

PART 2
Decision Continued (following further written submissions)
10

The additional ground of appeal which has now been formulated is to the effect that the FtT, in focusing on the precarious immigration status of the children, erred in law having regard to the statement of the Supreme Court in Zoumbas v SSHD [2013] UKSC 74 that a child should not be blamed for matters for which it is not responsible, such as the conduct of a parent.

The FtT's Decision Examined
11

In its decision, the FtT, in the context of considering the best interests of the children, stated at [51]:

“The best interests of the children are a primary consideration in this case but may be outweighed by the cumulative effect of other matters that weigh in the public interests”.

The Tribunal then considered the decision in ZH (Tanzania) [2011] UKSC 4 in a passage which includes the following:

“The Tribunal should take into account the fact that the children should not suffer as a result of the behaviour of their parent, but in certain cases the cumulative effect of other factors might still outweigh the best interests of the children. A child's interests are a primary consideration but they are not paramount”.

Continuing, the Tribunal stated at [53]:

“Applying both Section 55 [of the 2009 Act] and the guidance in ZH, it is clear that the safety and welfare of the children are of primary consideration. However, that does not mean that the family necessarily must be given the right to remain living in the UK. [The children] were born in the UK but they have no right to remain here and this is an important consideration. They are also not British citizens”.

In a later passage, the tribunal refers to the decision of the Upper Tribunal in AM (Section 117B) Malawi [2015] UKUT 0260 (IAC), noting the analysis that in section 117B of the 2002 Act Parliament clearly distinguished between those who have formed a private life in the United Kingdom during an unlawful sojourn and during any period when their immigration status is precarious.

12

The Tribunal next gave consideration to the strength of the children's ties with the United Kingdom, noting in particular that the older child had lived here for the seven years of her life. The Judge made the conclusion – in my judgement both unavoidable and unremarkable - that the best interests of these two young children lie in remaining with their parents. The question of whether it would be reasonable to expect the children to accompany the parents to the country of origin was then examined. Following an outline of material aspects of the evidence, this yielded the conclusion, at [65]:

“Having considered all the evidence in the round I do not find that it would be unreasonable to expect the children to...

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