Syrian refugee’s conviction for use of false passport to seek asylum quashed

21.10.16 | |

 

The Court of Appeal has overturned the conviction of a Syrian refugee who used a false passport to flee Syria. He was represented by Richard Thomas (instructed by Nigel Leskin of Birnberg Peirce and Partners).

 

Mr Chikho, a Kurd, had been secretly filming atrocities carried out by the government of Bashar al-Assad and publishing his footage via al-Jazeera, YouTube and other media outlets before being forced to flee the country. He had walked to Turkey and then, after a delay of a few months, paid money to a people smuggler that took him to Spain, where he boarded a plane to London using a false passport. He was stopped at Gatwick and pleaded guilty to a false document offence for which he was imprisoned.

 

The Criminal Cases Review Commission referred the case to the Court of Appeal on the basis that Mr Chikho had not been advised about the statutory defence available to refugees. The issue on the appeal was whether the advice was adequate and whether the time spent in Turkey deprived Mr Chikho of a defence because he had “stopped” in that country and could have sought protection there. It was argued that whilst Turkey was an early signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention meaning the rights in the Convention applied only to refugees from Europe. It was argued that Turkey’s recent Law on Foreigners and International Protection (LFIP) and the Temporary Protection Regulation post-dated Mr Chikho’s travel and in any event these new laws maintain the geographical exemption, and the refugee protection offered by Turkey does not amount to protection under the Convention.  

 

Press coverage in The Guardian.

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