In October 1998, a group of 75 individuals from Ethiopia, Iraq, Sudan and Syria, arrived in the SBA after a boat in which they were travelling to Italy foundered off the coast of Cyprus. Following their arrival, the six claimants who took this case were detained for between eight to fourteen months.Between 1999 and 2000 the six men and women were released after being recognised as refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention following a procedure conducted by the SBA Administration in conjunction with the Home Office and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The six claimants and their children have remained living on the SBA ever since.According to their lawyers, the six claimants and their families have had to endure deteriorating living conditions on the SBA with no access to healthcare, living in bungalows which were due to be demolished in 1997 and which were found to contain potentially harmful levels of asbestos in 2008.Expert reports commissioned by the UNHCR in 2013 found high levels of anxiety and depression amongst the families with all children being assessed to have suffered in their “psychological health” due to their living conditions.The Government disputes High Court appeal by the six claimants and their families to return to UK on the grounds that:
The 2014 decision was not legally invalidated by the failure of the Home Secretary to take into account the view expressed by the UNHCR that the relocation of the refugees to the Republic of Cyprus was no longer “a desirable or practical option”
The 2014 decision would have been the same even if the UNHRC’s views were considered
The judgment of the Court of Appeal is now awaited.