Court finds Home Office is failing in duty to provide asylum support

Legal Updates

On 21 July 2023, the High Court found that the Home Secretary (Suella Braverman, the head of the Home Office) failed to meet the minimum legal obligations to provide support to people seeking asylum in the UK. 

Asylum support is provided by the Home Office, while an asylum claim is being considered. There are different types of asylum support that the Home Office provides, depending on which stage of the asylum process you are in. 

You can learn more about the different types of Asylum Support in our detailed Toolkit page.

The recent judgment found that under Section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, the Home Office is under a legal duty to provide ‘destitute’ asylum seekers with accommodation and/or financial assistance to meet their basic living needs. 

Under Section 98 of the same law, the Home Office also has a duty to provide emergency support, either in the form accommodation or financial support or both, while applicants wait for eligibility decisions (when the Home Office decides whether or not someone fulfils the destitution requirement). 

Many people seeking asylum have been waiting a very long time to receive a decision and during this time the Home Office did not provide people in hotel accommodation any financial payments to meet their essential living needs. 

Even after positive eligibility decisions were made, people seeking asylum still had to wait longer to receive the support they were entitled to. In summary, people seeking asylum who turned to the government for help in their difficult situations were not supported. 

Pregnant mothers and young children who received positive eligibility decisions were entitled to additional weekly financial support. However, this additional support was not provided to the claimants, because the Home Office claimed that their additional needs would be met in hotel accommodation, despite reports showing the poor conditions in hotels. 
For more information on poor living conditions in hotels, read the Hostile Accommodation report by Refugee Action here.

What did the court decide?

Some of the issues that the court identified in its judgment, as well as actions it instructed the Home Office to take were that: 

  • Applications (for asylum support) have to be decided promptly, or else the Home Secretary is at risk of acting  unlawfully
  • Immediate steps should be taken to support eligible applicants
  • Temporary financial assistance must be considered under Section 98
  • Additional financial support must be provided for pregnant mothers and children under the age of 3

The Free Movement blog described this case as shocking because “asylum support exists to prevent destitute asylum seekers from becoming street homeless or unable to meet their basic needs.” 

This judgment comes after a pitiful increase in asylum support was announced by the Home Office in July 2023.  

People seeking asylum are already expected to support themselves on small amounts of money and are stripped of the right to work, but it is outrageous that their most basic living needs are not being met when the Home Office is required to do so. This is particularly shocking when we think of how long people are made to wait for asylum decisions and live in this limbo as a result of Home Office delays in clearing through the asylum decision backlog

While this judgment is significant because it emphasises the extent of the Home Office’s failure to comply with its duty to provide asylum support, we know that it is a drop in the ocean in terms of the suffering that people in the asylum system are subjected to on a daily basis. At the very least, we hope that it will result in improvements to the current system.
However, we acknowledge that the current system is beyond broken. Everyone should have the right to work, education, housing, and food at the most basic level. We continue to stand in solidarity with those most affected by the increasingly hostile environment, and continue to advocate for the fact that these walls must fall

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