asylum seekers


Supreme Court Rejects Appeal in Serco Lock Change Evictions Case – But What Effect Has the Human Rights Challenge Already Had?

8 April 2020 by

Introduction 

Serco is a private company that was contracted by the UK Home Office between 2012 and 2019 to provide accommodation to asylum seekers living in Glasgow. In July 2018, Serco began to implement the “move on protocol” – a new policy of changing locks and evicting asylum seekers without a court order if they were no longer eligible for asylum support. This put around 300 asylum seekers – who had no right to work or who had no right to homeless assistance – at risk of eviction and homelessness in Glasgow without any court process. 

In response to this, the Stop Lock Change Evictions Coalition (“the Coalition”) was formed by various organisations, charities and lawyers who all united for one common purpose – to protect asylum seekers’ human rights, particularly in relation to housing.  


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EU border transit zones and deprivation of liberty: Ilias v Hungary

19 March 2020 by

Amid recent news reports of Turkey’s re-opening of migration routes to Europe, clashes at the Turkey-Greece border, and EU countries closing their borders due to Covid-19, this post looks back to a decision from the ECtHR Grand Chamber last November and the applicability of Article 5 ECHR in temporary border transit zones. 

Ilias v Hungary (Application no. 47287/15) was the first case in which the ECtHR considered a land border transit zone between two member states of the Council of Europe, where the host state, Hungary, was also a member of the EU and had applied the safe third country rule under the EU asylum regime. The Grand Chamber held that the applicants’ detention did not breach Article 5 (the right to liberty and security of the person).

Image credit: The Guardian

The applicants, Mr Ilias and Mr Ahmed, were both Bangladeshi nationals who had left Bangladesh at different times and in differing circumstances. They met in Greece and then traveled together to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, then to Serbia, and then to Hungary. On 15 September 2015 they arrived in Hungary and entered the border transit zone at Röszke. They submitted asylum requests on the same day. Within several hours their requests were rejected as being inadmissible and they were ordered to be expelled from Hungary back to Serbia as a safe third country. The applicants then spent 23 days in the transit zone whilst they appealed this decision. On 8 October 2015, following a final decision of the Hungarian courts which rejected their applications for asylum and ordered the applicants’ expulsion, Mr Ilias and Mr Ahmed were escorted out of the transit zone and crossed the border back into Serbia.


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Back in the spotlight: the detention of mentally ill asylum seekers

9 October 2012 by

R (on the application of EH) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWHC 2569 (Admin) – read judgment

1 Crown Office Row’s Robert Kellar was instructed for the Defendant in this case.  He is not the writer of this post.

The High Court has ruled that the failure to consider the continued detention of a mentally ill failed asylum seeker in accordance with immigration policy rendered his detention unlawful in part.

The Claimant applied for asylum based upon his account of an attack during the Rwandan genocide and subsequent events.  The Home Secretary refused the application and the Claimant appealed.  At the appeal he was unrepresented and he adduced no medical evidence.  The Immigration Judge dismissed his appeal, disbelieving the entirety of his account. Once his appeal rights had been exhausted (that is, he was unable to appeal any further through the courts), the Secretary of State detained him on 19 October 2010 for the purpose of removal.

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No duty to snitch on another EU country’s asylum conditions

11 July 2012 by

Medhanye, R(on the application of ) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWHC 1799 (Admin) (02 July 2012)  – read judgment

EU law is based on a central principle of mutual confidence. It therefore flies in the face of this trust to impose a legal duty on one member state to monitor whether another Member State was complying with its obligations under that law, including its obligation to respect fundamental human rights.

Background facts

The claimant, an Eritrean national, sought asylum in the UK, having previously claimed asylum in Italy. The secretary of state decided to remove him to Italy under Regulation 343/2003 (Dublin II). The claimant challenged the Secretary of State’s decision to certify as “clearly unfounded” his claim that removing him to Italy would breach his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”). His application for judicial review was refused.
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Italy lose in Europe over asylum seeker boat interception – Henry Oliver

26 February 2012 by

Hirsi Jamaar and Others v. Italy (Application no. 27765/09) – Read judgment

The European Court of Human Rights has held that a group of Somalian and Eritrean nationals who were intercepted by Italian Customs boats and returned to Libya fell within the jurisdiction of Italy for the purposes of Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights . The return involved a violation of Article 3 (Anti-torture and inhumane treatment), Article 4 of Protocol 4 (collective expulsion of aliens), and  Article 13 (right to an effective remedy). The patrols that returned migrants to Libya were in breach of the non-refoulement principle.

The applicants were eleven Somalian nationals and thirteen Eritrean nationals who were part of a group of two hundred migrants who left Libya in order to reach the Italian coast. On 6th May 2009 Italian ships intercepted them 35 miles south of Lampedusa and returned them to Triploi, in Libya. During the voyage the migrants were not told where they were going (they assumed they were being taken to Italy), nor were they identified.

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When asylum seekers commit war crimes

17 December 2010 by

Secretary of State for the Home Department v DD (Afghanistan) [2010] EWCA Civ 1407 (10 December 2010) – Read judgment

It is a sometimes controversial aspect of immigration law that asylum seekers facing a real risk of persecution will nevertheless be denied the protection of the Refugee Convention, through the application of Article 1F of that Convention.  One of the bases for exclusion from protection is Article 1F(c), which applies where a person “has been guilty of acts contrary to the principles of the United Nations”. How does a court decide such cases?

The Court of Appeal has reversed the decision of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT) in a case involving an Afghani asylum seeker. The AIT had ruled that Article 1F did not apply, and so DD was entitled to refugee status.  The AIT’s conclusion was reached despite DD admitting a history of involvement with organisations engaged in violent activities against the Afghan Goverment and UN-mandated forces:  Jamiat-e-Islami, the Taliban, and Hizb-e-Islami. The Home Secretary’s appeal was allowed and the case was remitted to the AIT for a limited reconsideration.

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Asylum tribunal must think properly about private life

26 November 2010 by

HM (Iraq) v The secretary of state for the home department [2010] EWCA Civ 1322 – Read judgment

The Court of Appeal has overruled the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal’s decision to deport a 25-year-old Iraqi citizen who had lived in the UK since he was 12 and had recently been sent to prison for drug dealing, on the basis that it did not think carefully enough about his human rights to private and family life.

The decision – which is unusually concise and easy to follow – highlights the careful balancing exercise which an asylum and immigration tribunal must undertake in order to weigh up whether a person’s human rights to private and family life outweigh the public good of sending them back to their home country. In this case, although HM won his appeal, his case must now be reheard – for a third time – by an asylum tribunal.

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Boost for economic and social rights after landmark Court of Appeal ruling [updated]

13 July 2010 by

R (on the application of S) (Claimant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Defendant) & (1) Amnesty International & AIRE Centre (2) United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (Interveners) (2010) – Read judgment

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (“the Charter”)  could be directly relied on in the UK in a decision on the removal of an Afghan asylum seeker to Greece.

This Charter combines the rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms 1950 (“ECHR”) with the fundamental social rights set forth in the European Social Charter and in the Community Charter of Fundamental Social Rights of Employees. The decision could see the introduction of “social and economic” rights into the UK for the first time, but it could also place an unmanageable burden on member states to comply with the wide-ranging charter.

A reference to the European Court of Justice will now be made in respect of the application of the Charter in the context of return of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation. The Regulation is the cornerstone of EU refugee law, establishing a system of determining responsibility for examining asylum claims and ensuring that each claim is examined by one Member State rather than allowing multiple applications for asylum submitted by the same person in several Member States with the sole aim of extending their stay in the EU.

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