Asylum Support Tribunal rules on evictions following ‘implicit withdrawals’ of asylum claims

Wednesday 26 June 2024

Alex Grigg of Garden Court Chambers acted pro-bono for the appellants, instructed by Mark Rogers and Richard Copson of the Asylum Support Appeals Project (ASAP).

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Alex Grigg successfully represented the appellants MAH (AS/24/02/46289) and LKL (AS/23/12/45967) in a lead case addressing the jurisdiction of the Asylum Support Tribunal to intervene where asylum support is discontinued, or refused, following an incorrect decision to treat an asylum claim as implicitly withdrawn.

In the face of the serious, and ever-mounting, backlog of asylum cases, the Home Office has made increasingly widespread and blunt use of its power to treat an asylum claim as ‘implicitly withdrawn’, so avoiding the need to make any decision on the claim. The Asylum Support Tribunal has now confirmed that it has jurisdiction to intervene where an asylum seeker’s accommodation is withdrawn – or an initial application for support is refused – as a result of a spurious ‘implicit withdrawal’ decision.

As part of the government’s efforts to tackle the asylum backlog, an asylum seeker who fails to attend an asylum interview, even through no fault of their own, is now very likely to find their asylum claim discontinued by the Home Office. If the asylum seeker is in Home Office accommodation (provided under s.95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999), they will face eviction as a result. A large number of asylum seekers faced with homelessness for this reason have sought to appeal to the Asylum Support Tribunal.

Until recently, it has been unclear what, if anything, the Asylum Support Tribunal can do in these circumstances. Some judges have said that Home Office cannot be allowed to evict asylum seekers on the basis of plainly wrong decisions to discontinue their asylum claims. Others have said the Asylum Support Tribunal has no jurisdiction to intervene. The Home Office itself has vacillated, unable to decide its own position.

This situation has now been resolved firmly in favour of appellants, by a ruling of Principal Judge Storey in four linked cases. Accepting submissions by Mr Alex Grigg of Garden Court Chambers, Principal Judge Storey held that (i) the Tribunal has jurisdiction to hear appeals against decisions to discontinue support following an ‘implicit withdrawal’ decision, and (ii) the Tribunal was empowered to examine the circumstances in which the ‘implicit withdrawal’ decision was made.

On the facts of these cases, the Judge held that the Home Office had failed to follow its own policy on withdrawals, and so remitted each case to the Home Office to be reconsidered. That was an application of the uncontroversial principle of good administration, in circumstances where the Home Office’s failures could have the drastic consequence of causing homelessness and destitution, contrary to Article 3 ECHR.

This is a welcome ruling, vindicating the rights of asylum seekers to have their claims properly considered by the Home Office, and to be protected from homelessness while their claims are considered. It also addresses the broader point of the lawfulness of 'implicit withdrawal' decisions by the Home Office. Judge Storey requested a prompt indication from the Home Office as to whether they will judicially review this lead case.

See the Statement of Reasons here.

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