The High Court has ordered the Home Secretary to give a homeless former asylum seeker accommodation and support to self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic.
The urgent injunction came after an Asylum Support Tribunal judge urged the Home Office to house the young man who was sleeping in a park and begging to survive. She had asked the Home Office how destitute asylum-seekers could be refused accommodation when they cannot travel or leave the UK because of Covid-19. Despite the pandemic, Home Office officials have not announced that denials of accommodation to destitute asylum-seekers are suspended.
The injunction was granted to a young man from the Horn of Africa. After months of homelessness, Duncan Lewis helped him ask the Home Office for temporary accommodation. We argued that as a former asylum-seeker he needed to be housed to help him prepare fresh representations to stay in the UK. Immigration officials refused on the grounds that he needed to make the asylum submissions first. By the time he appealed to the Tribunal, the Government had called on everyone to stay at home. Asylum Support Judge Verity-Smith directed that that the appeal would be allowed because the Covid-19 pandemic meant the asylum-seeker could not travel or leave the UK, and should instead be socially isolating. The judge gave the Home Office a few days to defend the case.
The Home Office immediately withdrew their decision, but still did not accommodate the young man. He was forced to go on sleeping in the park. So a claim for judicial review was launched, with an urgent request for an order to the immigration officials to find him a place to stay. Yesterday 26 March 2020, Lieven J granted that request, saying that our client “is in a desperate situation with the onset of Covid-19. He cannot return to [his country of origin] and he is supposed to be socially isolating. The balance of convenience plainly lies in granting interim relief.”
This case is helpful to show that given the current Covid-19 pandemic, destitute failed asylum seekers are eligible for Section 4 Asylum Support, even those without outstanding further submissions.
Despite cases like these, Home Office has still not instructed officials and accommodation providers to stop evictions. Duncan Lewis is acting for other asylum-seekers who have been forced to leave accommodation despite suffering symptoms of Covid-19. We will continue to seek urgent orders from the High Court to accommodate our clients and to suspend all evictions during the pandemic.
Our Public law caseworker Zaki Sarraf said: “The directions of the Asylum Support Tribunal and this order are real steps in the right direction in ensuring that destitute failed asylum seekers – some of the most vulnerable people in our communities – can protect themselves and others from becoming ill. The right to life is at stake. We hope the Home Office will accept the common sense approach taken by the Asylum Support Tribunal and Court today, and immediately support others like our client without them having to go through an appeal process.”
Public law caseworker Zaki Sarraf and solicitor Stefan Vnuk instructed Simon Cox from Doughty Street Chambers.
Under section 4(2) of the Immigration & Asylum Act 1999, the Home Office can accommodate former asylum-seekers. Under the Immigration and Asylum (Provision of Accommodation to Failed Asylum-Seekers) Regulations 2005, this is limited to destitute failed asylum seekers individuals in one of the following situations: (1) taking all reasonable steps to leave the UK, (2) unable to leave the UK by reason of a physical impediment, (3) have no viable route of return available, (4) have permission or leave to proceed in relation to a judicial review, or (5) the provision of accommodation is necessary for avoiding a breach of a person’s Convention Rights.
The Home Office usually restricts Section 4(2) Asylum Support to those failed asylum seekers who have outstanding further submissions and initially refused our client’s request for Asylum Support as he had no outstanding further submissions.