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Home Office abandons unlawful plans to house asylum seekers at Yarl’s Wood (9 February 2021)

Date: 09/02/2021
Duncan Lewis, Main Solicitors, Home Office abandons unlawful plans to house asylum seekers at Yarl’s Wood

The Home Office has today announced to stakeholders that it has decided not to proceed with its plans to house up to 200 asylum seekers in prefabricated temporary accommodation on the site of Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre.

The announcement came one day before Rosie Newbigging, a Bedford resident, volunteer for Care4Calais and member of Stand Up to Racism Bedford, was due to issue a claim for judicial review to challenge the lawfulness of the Home Office’s plans.

In pre-action correspondence, to which the Home Office did not substantively respond, Ms Newbigging, represented by Duncan Lewis Solicitors, challenged the Home Office plans on the basis that the Home Secretary, Priti Patel was in breach of existing planning conditions for the site and that she was unable to rely on emergency planning law provisions; failed to consult adequately on the plans; and breached the public sector equality duty in failing to have due regard to pressing equality issues, including discrimination on the grounds of race and disability.

The Home Office communication did not specify whether they accepted that their plans were unlawful, and they appear to have left open the possibility that they will continue with the plans if they need additional capacity to house asylum seekers at Yarl’s Wood in the future.

The legal action formed part of a powerful public campaign by NGOs including Care4Calais, concerned residents and faith leaders who highlighted the severe impacts that these plans would have on the well-being of asylum seekers who would have been transferred to the site.

The Home Office plans fall within a wider policy of using ‘contingency accommodation’ to house asylum seekers in unsuitable locations such as the Penally and Napier military barracks. Duncan Lewis is leading on an ongoing challenge to the accommodation of asylum seekers in the Penally barracks.

Lottie Hume, trainee solicitor at Duncan Lewis, said “we welcome the decision to withdraw the plans for accommodating asylum seekers next to Yarl’s Wood IRC. The plan to build an isolated camp of portacabins on an industrial estate to house asylum seekers is just another example of Home Office plans which have been rushed through without due care and attention to their legal obligations and to the discriminatory impacts that their decisions may have. We are seeking clarity from the Home Office and we are ready to challenge any further plans to use the Yarl’s Wood site, or any failure to return the site to its pre-existing state. ”

The legal team at Duncan Lewis was Toufique Hossain, Lottie Hume and Jeremy Bloom. Counsel instructed were Alex Goodman and Alex Shattock at Landmark Chambers.

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