Government abandons section 55 rule denying support to claimants

The government has announced a climbdown on its policy of denying
asylum seekers support unless they make their claim within three
days of arriving in the UK.

Under the revised approach, the National Asylum Support Service
will provide food and shelter to claimants unless it is satisfied
that they have an alternative source of support available to

The U-turn comes after the government lost its appeal in May
against a High Court ruling that section 55 of the Nationality,
Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 breached three asylum seekers’
human rights.

In effect, it removes the need for asylum seekers to claim asylum
“as soon as reasonably practicable” in order to qualify for

More than 10,000 people were denied support under section 55
between its introduction in January 2003 and March this year.

Interviewing and decision-making under section 55 has been
suspended since the Court of Appeal judgement against the
government and all asylum seekers affected by the suspension were
provided with emergency support.

Asylum seekers who were previously denied support under section 55
can now apply to have their case reconsidered.

The Refugee Council has long campaigned against section 55 together
with other campaigners and heralded the change in policy as a
significant victory.

Chief executive Maeve Sherlock urged ministers not to pursue their
planned challenge to the ruling in the House of Lords, but instead
to “follow the logic of this change of approach, which will ensure
asylum seekers have the basic essentials with which to live”.

In another U-turn, the government has abandoned attempts to broaden
the diversity of asylum caseworkers by abolishing the job’s minimum
academic requirements after problems with the quality of decision
making, a new report reveals.

The National Audit Office report published last week states that
the change came after it had become apparent that some of the new
caseworkers were less able to make properly considered decisions on
complex asylum cases.

In November 2002, a competency-based approach and psychometric
tests replaced the need for asylum caseworkers to have two A-levels
and five GCSEs.

But the report says the academic requirements were restored in

– Improving the Speed and Quality of Asylum Decisions
available from

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