Freedom from Torture - High Court declares UKBA policy to delay support for asylum seekers is unlawful

High Court declares UKBA policy to delay support for asylum seekers is unlawful

A landmark ruling by the High Court has found that the failure of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to provide access to support for asylum seekers making fresh claims for asylum is unlawful and has encouraged destitution.

Individuals seeking protection in the UK whose asylum applications have been refused may submit a fresh claim for asylum because their situation, or that of their country of origin, has altered; they are legally entitled to be in the UK until a decision is made on this new claim. Unless it takes longer than 15 days to consider whether the new evidence submitted will be considered as a fresh claim, applicants have not been able to access accommodation or financial support (Section 4 support) while awaiting an answer.

In delivering the High Court judgment, Mr Justice Foskett, commented that the destitution often suffered by asylum seekers awaiting these decisions appeared to 'be an inevitable consequence' of Home Office policy. He also noted that "there are human beings behind each application made and some ... 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'.

In this particular case, two asylum seekers were forced to wait over a month before they could access the support they were entitled to and told the court they had experienced prolonged periods of destitution, and in one case, homelessness, as a result of this government practice. The High Court found that the failure to consider the applications for Section 4 support and the delay in offering it was in breach of their rights under article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Like the applicants in this case, too often at Freedom from Torture we work with clients who have been forced into destitution, including those waiting for consideration of a fresh claim. Freedom from Torture's forthcoming research on the impact of poverty on survivors of torture – who have often experienced extreme trauma as a result of their torture – shows that lack of accommodation and financial support in these instances can be especially dangerous, acting as a barrier to both protection and their ability to effectively access rehabilitation.

Freedom from Torture urged the Independent Chief Inspector of the UKBA to rigorously examine the asylum support system currently in place. He recently announced that an inspection will commence in the autumn.

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