Case Study: Ugandan national seeking asylum in the UK

Danielle Cohen
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor Linkedin
Danielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice.
11 February 2014

At Danielle Cohen Immigration Solicitors, we are always up to date with the most recent decision concerning human rights.  Here is a decision from the European Court of Human Rights.

The European Court of Human Rights FN –v- The United Kingdom Application no. 3202/09 – Date of hearing 17th September 2013


The applicant, a Ugandan national came to the UK in October 2000 on a passport bearing the name of another woman. When interviewed by the authorities at Gatwick Airport she maintained that the passport was genuine and that she was a UK resident. During her first interview she did not disclose any concerns about her treatment in Uganda, but told her aunt who was living in the UK, that a rebel group there had raped her and that she left because she was afraid she would be attacked again.

On the advice of a doctor she subsequently received medication and counselling in respect of her experiences. The applicant qualified as a nurse in 2006 and became settled in her local community. The applicant on the basis of her gang rape claimed asylum and humanitarian protection under Article 3 of ECHR. This was refused due to questions about credibility deriving from her non disclosure of the full story at the first interview, that the gang rape did not amount to  a sustained pattern of abuse, and that she could have sought redress from the Ugandan authorities.  The AIT, however, permitted her appeal, finding her to be both credible and that it would be unduly harsh to expect her to relocate.  An appeal of her decision by the UK authorities was allowed; on the basis that there was insufficient evidence of mental health problems since 2002 and any Article 8 interference was not disproportionate.  An application for Judicial Review was refused.

Following the exhaustion of her appeal rights that applicant’s anxiety and depression rose as a result of her detention. She applied to the Secretary of State for Discretionary Leave to Remain on compassionate grounds with her depression but this application along with the Judicial Review of the decision was refused.

In immigration detention she made further representations to the Secretary of State but these were rejected as not amounting to fresh claims. The applicant sought measures under Rule 39 to prevent removal to Uganda but this was also refused. The applicant had, by the time of the full judgement been returned to Uganda and was living in Kampala. She had been unable to find work but was receiving financial support from her aunt and friends in the UK.  She remained on anti depressant medication but had to stop taking them at certain times because in Uganda they were not readily available and were expensive.

Article 3

The applicant argued that removal to Uganda violated the UK’s obligations under Article 1 and 3 due to threat of sexual violence. This amounted to torture, combined with her inability to obtain the required treatment for her mental illness. The Court considered that it had to examine whether there were substantial grounds for believing that as a result of removal there was a real risk of being subject to treatment contrary to Article 3, by reference to the foreseeable consequences, bearing in mind the general situation there and her personal circumstances. This was in line with the obligation in Article 1 for member states to secure the rights and obligations maintained within the Convention.

Article 8

The applicant also argued that her removal to Uganda severed her social and familial ties in the UK and represented the premature termination of her psychiatric rehabilitation in the UK and this amounted to a disproportionate interference with her Article 8 rights.

The Courts findings

In relation to Article 3 the application under Article 3 was in the Court’s view manifestly unfounded and therefore inadmissible.  The court noted that she was not imminently suicidal, and it was possible for her to purchase medication for her depression.  In relation to Article 8, the Court considered that the removal to Uganda was both in accordance with the law and motivated by the legitimate aim of the maintenance and enforcement of Immigration Control and therefore her removal was not disproportionate.

The applicant’s stay was at all times precarious and any private and family life she established was in full knowledge of this. There is no general obligation to respect an immigrant’s choice of the country in terms of their exercising their family life.