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Deportations to Nigeria and the Gambia in breach of the Convention

On 24 November 2020, the European Court of Human Rights published a Chamber judgement in the case Unuane v. the United Kingdom (no. 80343/17) concerning the applicant’s deportation to Nigeria, following a criminal conviction, forcing him to leave his partner and three children in the United Kingdom. The Chamber held that there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the Convention. The applicant, Charles Unuane, is a Nigerian national who was born in 1963, and he came to the UK as a visitor in 1998 and was granted a right of residence the following year. In December 2000, the applicant’s Nigerian partner entered the UK, and their three children were born thereafter. In 2009 he and his partner were convicted of offences relating to the falsification of some 30 applications for leave to remain in the UK. The Secretary of State considered that the applicant and his partner were foreign criminals and their deportation was for the public good. The applicant appealed against the Secretary of State’s decision on the grounds that he had an established family life and private life in the UK and his deportation to Nigeria would be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. The applicant’s partner and the two children also appealed. The applicant was deported in February 2018. Relying in particular on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the Convention, the applicant complained that his deportation to Nigeria had disproportionately interfered with his family and private life.

On 17 November 2020, the European Court of Human Rights handed down a Chamber judgment in the case of B. and C. v. Switzerland (applications nos. 43987/16 and 889/19) concerning a homosexual couple, one of whom risked being returned to the Gambia following the rejection of his partner’s application for family reunification. He alleged he was at risk of ill-treatment if returned. The Chamber held, unanimously, that there would be a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights if the first applicant were deported to the Gambia on the basis of the domestic decisions in his case. The Court considered that criminalisation of homosexual acts was not sufficient to render return contrary to the Convention. The Court found, however, that the Swiss authorities had failed to adequately assess the risk of ill-treatment for the first applicant as a homosexual person in the Gambia and the availability of State protection against ill-treatment from non-State actors. Several independent authorities noted that the Gambian authorities were unwilling to provide protection for LGBTI people. The Court furthermore considered that the indication made to the Government under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court must remain in force until the present judgment became final.