The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg today (5 December 2023) handed down its judgment in the case of HA v United Kingdom. The Court found in favour of the UK, holding that the applicant’s deportation to Lebanon would not give rise to a violation of Article 3 of the Convention. David Manknell acted for the UK (instructed by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office).
The applicant, HA, is a stateless person of Palestinian origin. He was born and raised in the Ein El-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon. He left the camp in 2017 for the UK where he requested asylum and humanitarian protection. He relied on several grounds, one of which was that he was at risk of harm if he refused attempts to recruit him to extremist armed groups in the camp. The UK courts accepted that extremist armed groups would attempt to recruit him but found that he had not shown that he or his family were at any risk of harm if he refused.
The case concerned his allegation that his expulsion to the Ein El-Hilweh refugee camp would put him at risk of mistreatment because of attempts to recruit him to extremist armed factions operating there. He referred, among other things, to a report describing fighting in the Lebanese camp between Fatah and Jund Al-Sham.
HA relied on Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) in respect of the alleged risk he would face if returned and further alleges that the UK courts failed to address the merits of his claim of future risk. The Court rejected his challenge, holding that the First Tier Tribunal had given careful consideration to the question of the alleged risk of treatment contrary to Article 3 faced by the applicant if returned to the Ein El-Hilweh camp. The Court went on to consider whether any material that had come to light since that judgment was capable of leading the ECtHR to conclude that the applicant’s expulsion to Lebanon would give rise to a risk of treatment in breach of Article 3 on account of attempts to recruit him to extremist armed groups. The Court expressed some concern as to the content of the EASO report in respect of the recruitment of young Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon. However, while it noted that there was evidence of such recruitment, it did not accept that this showed that HA’s refusal to be recruited by extremist armed groups would put him at risk of serious harm. The Court therefore concluded that none of the material currently before it called into question the conclusion of the FTT that there was no evidence of any serious harm to the applicant if returned to Ein El-Hilweh camp in Lebanon.