Court hears that a secret policy prevented some asylum seekers from staying in the UK
A group of asylum seekers have launched a legal challenge against the Home Office, claiming that a secret policy unlawfully prevented them from being granted leave to remain in the UK. The policy, which was revealed in a court hearing on Thursday, allegedly instructed caseworkers to refuse applications from asylum seekers who had previously been removed or deported from the UK, regardless of their individual circumstances.
The policy was in place from March 2017 to August 2020, and affected hundreds of asylum seekers who had returned to the UK after being removed to countries where they faced persecution, torture or death. The Home Office did not disclose the policy to the applicants, their lawyers, or the courts, and only admitted its existence after a Freedom of Information request by the Public Law Project, a legal charity that is representing the claimants.
The claimants argue that the policy was unlawful, irrational and discriminatory, and violated their human rights and the Refugee Convention. They also claim that the policy resulted in unfair and inconsistent decision-making, as some asylum seekers who had been removed or deported were granted leave to remain, while others in similar situations were refused.
Home Office defends the policy as a deterrent measure
The Home Office defended the policy in court, saying that it was a legitimate and proportionate measure to deter asylum seekers from making repeated or abusive claims, and to maintain immigration control. The Home Office also said that the policy did not apply to all asylum seekers who had been removed or deported, but only to those who had no fresh or compelling evidence to support their claims.
The Home Office argued that the policy was not secret, but was an internal guidance that was not intended to be published. The Home Office also said that the policy was not binding, but allowed caseworkers to exercise discretion and consider each case on its merits.
Judge reserves judgment until a later date
The judicial review hearing, which took place at the High Court in London, lasted for two days and was presided over by Mr Justice Swift. The judge heard evidence and submissions from both sides, and reserved his judgment until a later date. He said that he would give his decision as soon as possible, but did not indicate when that would be.
The claimants are seeking a declaration that the policy was unlawful, and an order that the Home Office reconsider their applications in accordance with the law. They are also seeking damages for the distress and hardship they suffered as a result of the policy.
The case is one of several legal challenges that have been brought against the Home Office over its treatment of asylum seekers in recent years. The Home Office has faced criticism for its use of detention centres, charter flights, and offshore processing of asylum claims.