High Court quashes Home Office refusal to issue visa to former British Forces Interpreter in Afghanistan

A former interpreter for the British military in Afghanistan has won his High Court case challenging the Home Office’s refusal to grant him a visa to enter and live in the UK.  Our client, “ALO”, had applied under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (“ARAP”) in May 2021, before the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021.  He was approved by the Ministry of Defence for protection under the ARAP scheme, but then his case was handed to the Home Office for immigration approval. The Home Office refused entry clearance for unspecified reasons, citing national security concerns. Without knowing what objections these were, the interpreter, known as “ALO”, wrote to the Home Office challenging the decision. His first judicial review proceedings were conceded by the Home Office in October 2021 and it agreed to make a new decision in his case. However, the subsequent November 2021 decision, personally taken by the then Security Minister, maintained the earlier refusal.  A second set of proceedings were commenced. The High Court reviewed all the evidence in the case, including sitting in CLOSED session (inaccessible to the public or the Claimant and his lawyers), and has ruled today that the refusal was unsafe. It has quashed the decision and remitted it back to the Home Office for a new decision.

The reason the Court has quashed the Home Office refusal related to the facts of the case: it failed to take reasonable steps to ensure that the factual basis for its decision was sufficient.  The High Court recognised that a failing like this needed to be “obvious and material” [para 31] for the Claimant to succeed, but even though this was a high hurdle, it appears that the failings in this case met this test.  The detailed reasons are in the CLOSED judgment which is inaccessible to the Claimant, his lawyers or the public.

The case will now return to the Home Office for a new decision.

This case is not unique. A large number of ARAP applicants were approved by the MoD for swift relocation out of Afghanistan due to their UK service and the risks they faced only to be refused by the Home Office without giving reasons and citing national security concerns.  After legal challenges assisted by Deighton Pierce Glynn and other firms, several of these former interpreters were given visas by the Home Office. However, many more have had their decisions re-taken – some multiple times – but without finality.  They have had decisions two or even three times now, and the Home Office paused future decisions behind today’s judgment. It is hoped that as a result of the guidance given by the High Court visas will now be granted swiftly to the affected interpreters who remain in hiding in Afghanistan.

ALO was represented by Daniel Carey, Catherine Dowle and Olivia Duffield, instructing Tim Owen KC of Matrix Chambers and Rehana Popal and James Fraczyk of 33 Bedford Row.

The judgment can be accessed here.

Image: Creative Commons Licence: US Dept of Defence Stock Photo

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