Child, I Know What’s Best For You

No. 45 of #50cases.

“Because I know what’s best for you”.  Were you ever told that as a child? In many situations, what a child thinks is basically ignored, and there is nothing wrong with that. We thank our parents later in life for making sure we ate our vegetables or sent us to school even though we didn’t want to get out of bed.  But when it came to being separated from their father and made to move to a new country, the Supreme Court decided that what two British children thought did matter.

Their mother was a Tanzanian national who had arrived in the U.K. in 1995. She made three unsuccessful claims for asylum.  Their father was British.  The parents separated in 2005 and the mother’s further claims for asylum all failed, so it was decided that she would be deported back to Tanzania.  However, the father had contracted HIV, so was unable to look after the children.  This posed a difficult question: would it be in the best interests of the children to be deported with their mother, even though they were British citizens and had grown up in he UK?

The court decided that the best interests of the children should be considered first. Their importance couldn’t be minimised.  Here, it was not in the children’s best interests to be moved to a country they did not know, where they do not speak the language. They have lived in the UK all their lives and would be separated from a parent.

What makes this particular case so significant is that the judges gave weight to the wishes of the children, aged 9 and 12.  It meant neither the mother nor the children were deported.

We may think we know “what’s best” for children, but we have to make sure we put their needs first.

This story is a short summary of a legal decision. You can read the full text here

Media Coverage of this story