An estimated 45,000 will be entitled to work in the UK as a result of the Supreme Court ruling in “ZO” – in a case brought by Duncan Lewis solicitors.
Delays in the time it takes for the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to process asylum claims causes hardship to thousands. These hardships were exacerbated by the inability to find lawful work during the time spent waiting for a decision.
Our client, ‘ZO’, was such an individual; a lone vulnerable young single female who had suffered terrible treatment in her home country of Somalia. Initially refused asylum, ZO submitted a second claim based on previously unavailable evidence. This second claim was highly likely to succeed. Unfortunately, the claim was placed in a backlog of some 500,000 cases, some dating back more than 10 years, announced in July 2006 known as the ‘legacy’. There was no guarantee that ZO’s application would be considered before mid 2011.
ZO was in limbo; not permitted to work and reliant upon ‘hard case’ support, a meagre level of support of food vouchers and hostel accommodation, unsuitable for vulnerable individuals.
The UKBA recognises that these conditions are unsuitable. If an initial asylum application is outstanding for over 12 months - the UKBA grants the Applicant permission to work in the UK. However, the UKBA have denied the same right to those awaiting the outcome of a “legacy” claim. As a result of “ZO” this is now unlawful. In most cases, those with “legacy” claims will now be able to find work and, as a result, will no longer be dependant upon the state for support.
As confirmed by the Court of Appeal, and this week by the Supreme Court, Council Directive 2003/9/EC (the ‘Reception Directive’) does apply to subsequent asylum claims. The Directive lays down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers to ensure them a dignified standard of living. Permission to take employment is one of these keys rights. Other rights now enshrined include preservation of family unity, access to education for minors, access to vocational training, access to emergency health care and essential treatment of illness.
There is no onward right of appeal from the Supreme Court; and so the right to work is now guaranteed to individuals such as ZO, and an estimated 45,000 other people currently in the UK. There are many other people in other EU States who may benefit from this judgment – as judgments of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom are held in high regard by other Member States and by the European Court of Justice.
Regrettably, the Government already seems to be considering alternative ways of restricting the rights guaranteed by the Reception Directive. The day after judgement in ZO Damian Green, the current Immigration Minister, announced plans to bar individuals such as ZO from applying for some 28.5 million jobs in industries where there are no official staff shortages. Such a step would likely be open to further legal challenge and it is to be hoped that the Supreme Court will continue to stand up to government.