Refugee Council welcomes Court of Appeal decision to uphold asylum seekers' right to shelter - Refugee Council
May 21, 2004

Refugee Council welcomes Court of Appeal decision to uphold asylum seekers’ right to shelter

The Court of Appeal today ruled against the Home Secretary on the case of three desitute asylum seekers. The housing charity Shelter intervened in the three cases, which were also supported by the Refugee Council. The asylum seekers were denied access to government support under Section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 because they had not applied for asylum within three days of arrival.

Lord Justice Jacob ruled that “shelter of some form from elements at night” was in fact a “basic amenity”, and that the Home Secretary had implemented Section 55 unfairly by denying them access to support. The ruling also established that the mere threat of not having access to shelter in the future is enough to prove a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and that enquiries into what other support is available do not need to be exhaustive.

In response to today’s decision Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:

“We welcome this decision. We have long argued that Section 55 breaches basic human rights and there is mounting and unavoidable evidence that it is doing so on a large scale.

“A report published by the Refugee Council earlier this year showed that of 130 organisations working with asylum seekers surveyed, 74 per cent had seen clients forced to sleep rough, and who experienced hunger and a lack of basic essentials such as clothes and toiletries.

“Asylum seekers refused food and shelter under Section 55 are not allowed to work and have no other way of supporting themselves. Consistent court cases have shown how inhumane this legislation is. It is surely time now for the Government to repeal Section 55 and concentrate on getting asylum decisions right first time, treating people with dignity while they wait for a decision.”