Permission granted in challenge to undisclosed Home Office asylum accommodation policy

The High Court has granted permission to proceed with a challenge to an undisclosed Home Office policy which states that asylum seekers can only be dispersed from temporary hotel accommodation on an “expedited” basis if there are “exceptional circumstances.”

The Claimant, a destitute asylum seeker and single mother with a baby and young child, had been placed in small, single room “full board” hotel accommodation with her children for several months. The food was inadequate and lacking nutrition, and the hotel refused to provide her with baby food. However, the Home Office refused to move her to long-term accommodation, on the basis that her case did not disclose “exceptional circumstances” justifying a departure from chronological dispersal.

She brought a claim for judicial review on the following grounds:

  • The Home Office introduced an unlawful unpublished policy that requires “exceptional circumstances” to be shown before an asylum seeking family can be dispersed from interim accommodation on an “expedited” basis.
  • The undisclosed policy unlawfully fettered the discretion of the Home Office to disperse asylum seekers sooner than in chronological order.
  • In operating an “exceptional circumstances” policy, and in the Claimant’s specific case, the Home Office failed to have due regard to the best interests of children, contrary to s.55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009.
  • The decision to accommodate the Claimant and her family in a small hotel room with inadequate food breached the duty to provide adequate accommodation and moreover failed to take into account the family’s individual circumstances as material considerations.

The Home Office’s failure to move the Claimant breached her right to private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR

A mandatory interim order to accommodate the family in adequate long-term accommodation was granted on the papers by His Honour Judge Pearce. The Judge noted in his order:

“I should note the high standard of preparation of this application. The fact that a case is well-presented does not affect the ultimate decision. But it makes the decision making process more straightforward and assists the court in dealing with the matter in accordance with the overriding objective. The Claimant’s lawyers are to be congratulated on their thorough preparation and attention to the Administrative Court Guide.”

The family are now settled in long-term accommodation, with their own kitchen and funds to buy their own food.

Following the grant of interim relief, the Home Office resisted the claim being allowed to continue, arguing that the issue was now academic and in any event unarguable.

In a separate decision on the papers, His Honour Judge Sephton QC rejected the Secretary of State’s arguments, and granted the Claimant permission to proceed on all of her grounds of challenge. The judge held that the case was not academic but “it is in any event arguable that the matters raised in this claim are of public importance and require to be ventilated.”

The claim will now go to a final hearing.

DPG Partner Frances Lipman and Counsel Alex Shattock of Landmark Chambers are instructed.

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