Agency forced to change asylum seeker support
The UK Border Agency must change the way it supports failed asylum seekers after a landmark judicial review found its current policy is unlawful.
At present the agency does not decide on whether to give financial or accommodation support until a decision has been made on whether a failed asylum seeker has a genuine case for a fresh application for asylum.
This was challenged in the case of MK and AH v the secretary of state for the Home Department this week. The claim was supported by charity Refugee Action, which argued the practice often leaves failed asylum seekers homeless and destitute for at least three weeks.
‘We will seek to ensure that, as this policy has now been deemed unlawful, it is conclusively withdrawn by the Home Office.’
Dave Garratt, chief executive, Refugee Action
In his ruling on Tuesday Mr Justice Foskett said: ‘There are human beings behind each application made and some (including single men) may be extremely vulnerable at the time of making the application for support, the vulnerability being exacerbated by being destitute and homeless at the time.
‘Whilst it would probably be unrealistic to expect that any policy or practice, however tightly drafted and conscientiously observed, would always ensure that every deserving case was dealt with properly and efficiently, that can never be a justification for not endeavouring to set in place a policy that does try to achieve this objective.
The judicial review revolved around two cases. One, ‘MK’, was a Zimbabwe national who applied for financial and accommodation help for failed asylum seekers (section 4 support) after putting in his fresh claim for asylum.
It took about a month before the UKBA decided to give him refugee status, and for 27 days after his section 4 application he was not given support and left destitute.
‘AH’ was an Eritrea national who ended up sleeping rough on the streets of Manchester and waited 36 days before the UKBA agreed to provide him with section 4 support.
Dave Garratt, chief executive of Refugee Action, said: ‘This case has shone a spotlight on government policy and practice which can leave asylum seekers homeless and hungry. Forcing people into such abject poverty should never be the outcome of government procedure.
‘When people who have been refused asylum have new or previously undisclosed evidence, or the situation in their home country has changed, making a new asylum claim can be the difference between life and death.’
Refugee Action provided evidence in the case saying the delay between an application for section 4 support being made and provided was now an average of 30 days.
Mr Garratt added: ‘We will seek to ensure that, as this policy has now been deemed unlawful, it is conclusively withdrawn by the Home Office and further administrative delays to decision-making are not allowed to push vulnerable people into destitution.’
Dave Stamp, project manager at charity Asylum Support and Immigration Resource Team, said: ‘It’s welcome news given the policy was leaving people destitute.’
A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: ‘We are disappointed by this judgment. It is important that support is only provided to those who genuinely need it and that our policies do not incentivise applicants to delay the process.
‘We are taking steps to consider requests for section 4 support in light of the court’s decision.’