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Duncan Lewis Solicitors to challenge the segregation of asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airbase (26 October 2023)

Date: 26/10/2023
Duncan Lewis, Main Solicitors, Duncan Lewis Solicitors to challenge the segregation of asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airbase

Duncan Lewis’s public law team has submitted a pre-action letter the Home Office’s detention and treatment of asylum seekers at Wethersfield airbase, an MoD airfield, in Essex.

A pre-action protocol letter issued on behalf of the humanitarian organisation Care4Calais, alleges that the Home Office has unlawfully segregated asylum seekers based on their nationality, effectively confining them to what the charity describes as a ‘de facto prison camp’. It also sets out that the Government is failing to adopt an effective, lawful and rational policy for identifying those unsuitable for accommodation at Wethersfield.

The legal challenge contends that approximately 200 people, mainly from countries like Eritrea and Afghanistan, are being subjected to ‘segregation by nationality’ at Wethersfield airbase.

Situated nearly 12 miles away from the nearest town, Braintree, the base is enclosed by security fences and constantly monitored by on-site guards and CCTV. The lack of public transport and pavements exacerbates the isolation experienced by the residents.

The letter argues that the conditions at Wethersfield may amount to detention, making it nearly impossible for residents to interact with the local community, thereby violating their rights and dignity.

Furthermore, the legal challenge highlights the absence of an effective screening process to identify vulnerable individuals, such as survivors of torture or trafficking, who the Government recognises should not be housed at Wethersfield.

Care4Calais contends that individuals with such vulnerabilities are routinely sent to the airbase, further exacerbating their precarious situation.
The Home Office has until 7 November to respond to the pre-action letter before proceedings for a full judicial review are initiated.

Steve Smith, CEO of Care4Calais, strongly condemned the government’s approach, stating, “Falsely imprisoning asylum seekers behind barbed-wire fences, placing them under 24/7 surveillance, restricting their liberty and separating them from any semblance of community is now the chosen policy of this government. We believe it is unlawful.”

The Home Office has yet to comment on the allegations. Meanwhile, this story has garnered significant attention from various media outlets:

OpenDemocracy: Care4Calais launches legal challenge against government and Suella Braverman over treatment of asylum seekers at RAF Wethersfield

Mirror: Suella Braverman in court threat over 'unlawful segregation' of asylum seekers

Apple News: Government Plan to End Asylum Seeker Hotels at Risk of Legal Threat at RAF Base

iNews: Government plan to end asylum seeker hotels at risk of legal threat at RAF base

The Guardian: Government faces legal challenge over ‘unlawful segregation’ of asylum seekers

The immigration and public law department at Duncan Lewis stands as a beacon of legal excellence, recognised as Top Tier in both Chambers and Legal 500 rankings. Specialising in human rights, asylum, and deportation cases, our team boasts unparalleled proficiency. We have achieved significant successes for our clients, establishing ourselves as leaders in pioneering public interest litigation. Fearlessly challenging legal and political conditions, we often invoke common law, constitutional, and human rights arguments to advocate for justice.

Our practice encompasses a wide spectrum, ranging from immigration and asylum to human rights and deportation matters. We have carved a niche in immigration and civil liberties claimant judicial review cases, displaying our dedication to upholding fundamental rights and liberties. With an unwavering commitment to our clients, we navigate complex legal landscapes with finesse, ensuring the protection of human rights in every case we handle.

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