Home Office wrong to stop asylum seekers working in UK, court rules

A high court judge has ruled that the Home Office is leaving destitute asylum-seekers homeless, in breach of the law due to its failure to monitor the operations of private firms contracted to manage asylum accommodation.

The ruling on Friday paves the way for tens of thousands who are denied the right to work by the Home Office to have their requests to take up jobs considered.

Asylum seekers and victims of trafficking are generally denied the right to work by the Home Office. Many wait several years to get a decision.

There is a record backlog of 60,548 people waiting for an initial decision on their asylum claim, with 76% of people waiting more than six months for a decision.

In a ruling handed down on Monday morning, Justice Robin Knowles found that the five claimants in the case – all asylum-seekers considered by the Home Office itself to be “highly vulnerable” and eligible for housing support – had been left homeless for prolonged periods.

In one case, a severely disabled man was forced to stay on friends’ sofas and at some points sleep on the streets near the renal clinic he had to attend for kidney dialysis because the government failed to move him into suitable accommodation, the court heard.

The Home Office had assessed him as needing level-access accommodation and accepted that this should be close to his dialysis clinic, yet it took nine months and three applications to the court before this was eventually provided.

Justice Knowles ruled that the Home Office had failed to monitor the provision of accommodation to disabled migrants in breach of the law, and discriminated unlawfully against the man by subjecting him to unfavourable treatment because of something arising from his disability.

He said the evidence showed that the needs of disabled people were “insufficiently identified, information about those needs is insufficiently shared, and those needs are insufficiently addressed within the system that is being used”.

Justice Knowles said that the claimants’ cases showed that the monitoring arrangements that were in place “either did not happen or do not work”.

The court found there was an “unsuitable readiness” by the Home Office to assume the claimants were at fault for not being in accommodation, and a broader inclination to “reject [any] challenge far more often than to acknowledge failings”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government takes seriously its legal obligations under the Immigration and Asylum Act to provide support including accommodation to asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute and to failed asylum seekers who have a barrier to their departure from the UK and who would otherwise be destitute.

“We are fixing our broken asylum system to make it firm and fair. We will seek to stop abuse of the system while ensuring it is compassionate towards those who need our help, welcoming people through safe and legal routes.

“We will consider the judgement carefully, including whether or not to further appeal.” [The Independent]