On 31 July 2003, the High Court ruled that the Home Office did in fact breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights by refusing to provide subsistence and accommodation to three asylum seekers under Section 55 of the Immigration, Nationality and Asylum Act 2002.
The three cases were heard by Mr Justice Maurice Kay on 16 and 17 June, during which the Home Office had argued that the three individuals involved did not apply for asylum ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’. They also argued that sleeping rough was not a breach of their human rights.
During the court case, the judge had heard evidence from Shelter, the Refugee Council, and many other refugee community and voluntary organisations, which showed that there was indeed very limited charitable help and shelter available to the asylum seekers after the Home Office’s refusal of support. Evidence also showed that they had difficulties accessing medical treatment.
In response to the High Court ruling, Margaret Lally, Acting Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
“We very much welcome this important development. It is appalling that a country to which people come seeking sanctuary from persecution finds it acceptable to force people into homelessness and destitution.
“We maintain our view that denying food and shelter to some of society’s most vulnerable individuals is a clear contravention of their human rights. In particular, we find it reprehensible that vulnerable women and those with mental health needs are being subjected to this treatment.
“We reiterate that as a charity we (along with other refugee and homelessness organisations) lack the necessary resources to provide a safety net for all those refused support under Section 55.
“Asylum seekers are not allowed to work while their claims are processed. They therefore have no means to support themselves and no choice but to sleep on the streets. We are extremely encouraged that the High Court has recognised this and we now call on the government to repeal this harsh and inhumane measure.”
Read a Home Office press release on the High Court ruling
Find out more about Section 55 and previous court cases
Note: we will update you with a link to the text of the court judgement once the final version is published.
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