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Home Secretary failed to have proper regard to the communication need of asylum seekers in full board hotel accommodation, High Court declares

Published:

Re: JM v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2021] EWHC 2514 (Admin)

The High Court gave a declaration that the Secretary of State for the Home Department failed to have proper regard to the communication need of asylum seekers being supported in full board hotel accommodation under s95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

The claim considered whether or not asylum seekers accommodated in hotels ought to have received support for travel and communication needs as part of their overall asylum support during certain periods of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Claimant argued that the defendant had breached their statutory duty to provide the Claimant with cash for travel and access to a telephone while he was in full board accommodation.

The Court held that whilst the pandemic did not change the nature of the duty to provide support for essential living needs, it did however constitute exceptional circumstances in which ‘a departure from gold-plated standards’ might be justified. In particular, the Defendant was entitled to conclude that no payment should be given to represent travel expenses whilst a national lockdown was in place, as the need to travel fell outside the minimum standard of living during that time. ‘The role that travel might ordinarily play in maintaining interpersonal relationships was interrupted in the public interest of mitigating the effects of the pandemic,’ the Court said. This changed after 1st July 2020, after which point the Defendant agreed to make back payments to cover the period as travel fell to be included as an essential living need once more. The Court determined that granting relief for this period served no purpose owing to the back payments, and therefore dismissed the travel element of the claim.

In relation to the communication need, the Court held that the fact that most Asylum seekers had mobile phones was not enough to satisfy the Defendant’s duty as this would leave those without a mobile phone with a living standard that was below the minimum required by the Directive. The Defendant could therefore not rely on the fact that the majority of those in full board accommodation under s95 had their own mobile phones in justifying its conclusions as to determining communication needs. The Defendant failed to properly recognise or carry out their duty to provide FBAs with the means of communication as an essential living need during the pandemic.

The Court granted declaratory relief that the defendant failed to have proper regard to the communication need of asylum seekers supported in full board hotel accommodation under s.95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

Chris Buttler QC was involved in this case.