High Court grants interim relief to vulnerable refugee faced with imminent homelessness by local authority

Friday 12 April 2024

Georgie Rea, of the Garden Court Housing Team, instructed by Lauren Sidgwick of Turpin Miller, successfully obtained interim relief from the High Court just before the bank holiday weekend.

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Recent findings from London Councils reveal a concerning 39% increase in homelessness presentations among refugees and asylum seekers evicted from Home Office accommodation last year, with numbers continuing to rise.

Individuals residing in section 95 accommodation often endure lengthy waits for the Home Office to process their asylum claims, rendering them unable to work or prepare for transition to the private rented sector. Their uncertain status precludes them from local authority support under Regulations 3 and 5 of the Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) Regulations 2006/1294.

Upon receiving refugee status, they face imminent eviction from their Home Office residence, despite regulations stipulating a 28-day extension period (section 94(3) IAA 1999 and reg 3 of the Asylum Support (Amendment) Regulations 2002/472). Appeals against premature discontinuation of support to the Asylum Support Tribunal can delay resolution by two to three weeks.

In one recent case, handled by Georgie on instruction from Lauren Sidgwick at Turpin Miller, a client faced imminent street homelessness over the Easter Bank Holiday after being served notice to vacate their Home Office accommodation. Despite asylum being granted based on a history of severe trauma, the local council initially declined accommodation under section 188(1) of the Housing Act 1996, citing no evidence of priority need.

The client gave clear instructions that her history of sexual assault in Iran had resulted in severe mental health difficulties and an acute fear of sleeping on the streets close to lone men, meaning she clearly met the test for priority need in section 189(c) of the Housing Act 1996, read with Hotak v London Borough of Southwark [2015] UKSC 30, and certainly met the low threshold of “reason to believe” required to engage the section 188(1) housing duty.

Efforts to persuade the council to accommodate the client were futile, with the local authority deferring consideration for a further seven days. An urgent application for interim relief, filed on Thursday 28 March 2024, resulted in the High Court promptly ordering the council to secure suitable interim accommodation under section 188(1) of the Housing Act 1996.

Solicitors should advise clients on the importance of a move-on plan post-asylum application approval. In the event of a Home Office refusal, clients are only entitled to a 21-day extension on their section 95 accommodation and may only apply for housing under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, as they are ineligible for local authority support.

However, it is not enough for a failed asylum seeker to simply demonstrate that they are destitute to qualify for section 4 accommodation; the person must show that they meet one of the additional requirements, for example, that they are unable to leave the UK due to physical impediment or other medical reason.

Solicitors handling cases involving asylum applicants or refugees faced with homelessness should consider instructing barristers experienced in both immigration and housing law to ensure comprehensive support for their clients navigating complex legal challenges, safeguarding their rights and securing essential accommodations in critical situations.

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