Arab woman awarded £36k over illegal detention in UK

An Arab woman previously convicted of passport fraud has been awarded more than $55,000 in compensation after a Scottish court ruled she was unlawfully detained by UK authorities for a year.

Nemah Shehadeh, who lives in Scotland, sued the Secretary of State for the Home Department last year after being held in detention between December 2006 and August 2009. She claimed part of that time was unlawful.

In a judgment dated August 21, it said Shehadeh served a month in a UK jail in 2005 for trying to leave the country with her son on false French passports.

On her release, she claimed asylum in the UK but her bid was rejected and several appeals against the decision also failed.

She was deported to Jordan, where UK authorities believed she was from, but on arrival in January 2008 she told immigration officials she was Palestinian and was refused entry.
UK authorities brought her back, but she was put into detention while her nationality and identity were established.

The judgment said she continued to be held in detention while various reviews were carried out, with conflicting information provided from Jordanian and Palestinian authorities.

She was eventually granted bail in August 2009 and has since been confirmed as a Jordanian national and has made a fresh application for asylum based on her conversion from Islam to Christianity.
In her lawsuit, Shehadeh claimed her detention became unlawful from the time of the government’s failed attempt to remove her to Jordan in January 2008.

She claimed for damages based on the initial shock of the experience and the ongoing detention.

In defence, the department argued Shehadeh’s detention was self-induced and self-perpetuating because she had obstructed the removal process.

It claimed the ongoing detention was necessary until authorities had documentation, evidence and arrangements in place to ensure her effective removal.

In rejecting her argument, Lord Tyre found the risk of her absconding was exaggerated by authorities and her immigration record portrayed worse than it was.

In his ruling, the judge questioned the credibility of aspects of Shehadeh’s immigration history, but ruled there was no lawful basis for her detention between August 2008, when authorities failed to act swiftly following a particular review of her case, and August 2009.

He also found that it should have come as no surprise to the respondent that on arrival in Jordan the petitioner advised the Jordanian authorities that she was Palestinian, as it was consistent with what she had told UK authorities at the time.

“I am not persuaded that the petitioner can be said to have chosen detention in the UK over freedom elsewhere,” he said in the judgment.

Lord Tyre awarded Shehadeh £36,000 and reserved his decision on costs.