Refugee campaigners have expressed their bitter disappointment
at the Court of Appeal’s ruling that an asylum seeker forced
to sleep rough after being denied government support did not suffer
inhuman or degrading treatment, writes Clare
The Malaysian asylum seeker, known as ‘T’ in court,
slept rough at Heathrow airport, west London for over five weeks
after he was denied assistance from the National Asylum Support
Service because he failed to apply for asylum for six days after
his arrival in the UK.
Lord Justice Kennedy said it was “impossible” to
find ‘T’s condition had reached or was verging on the
inhuman or degrading because he had “shelter, sanitary
facilities and some money for food”.
“He was not entirely well physically, but not so unwell as
to need immediate treatment,” he added.
Home office minister Beverley Hughes welcomed the ruling for
clarifying that “a claim of destitution will not necessarily
be a deciding factor” in deciding cases under Article 3 of
the European Convention of Human Rights.
But the Refugee Council’s director of development, Anna
Reisenberger, slammed the ruling and said it was “a
disappointing result” for the thousands of asylum seekers it
“Though the courts have already ruled that denying asylum
seekers support can lead to a breach of their human rights, this
remains a grey area in the law that will only be ultimately
resolved when the government repeals this harsh and inhuman
measure,” she added.
The home secretary’s appeal was against Mr Justice
Kay’s high court ruling in July that the human rights of
three asylum seekers had been breached when they were forced to
sleep rough after being denied Nass assistance for failing to make
their asylum claim immediately.
Although the home office immediately said it would appeal
against Kay’s ruling, before the judgement this week it
dropped two of the cases.
It acknowledged that ‘D’ had claimed asylum
‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ as stated under
Section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act and was
therefore entitled to support, and ‘S’ was sufficiently
ill that his human rights would be breached if support was not
“The government conceded that the two out of the three
claimants were driven to surviving in such appalling conditions
that it amounted to a breach of their human rights under Article
3,” said a Refugee Action spokesperson. “It cannot be
good law which so repeatedly risks human dignity by denying support
where it is so vitally needed.”
She added that asylum seekers denied support under Section 55
should be given the right to appeal at an independent NASS
Homelessness charity Shelter restated its call for the immediate
repeal of Section 55. Director, Adam Sampson, said: “If the
government fail to rethink this brutal legislation some very
vulnerable people will face a harsh and desperate