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Home Office settles case challenging adequacy of accommodation provided to Asylum Seeker that posed risks to their children

Wednesday 7 July 2021

The Claimant is represented by Tim Baldwin instructed by Scott Laing of Bhatia Best solicitors.

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On 7 June 2021 it was reported in R (MW) v Secretary of State for the Home Department CO/1083/2020, HHJ Gore QC sitting as a High Court judge, directed that there be a “rolled up” hearing. The hearing was ordered to determine the issue of permission and HHJ Gore QC ordered a substantive hearing on 7 July 2021 in respect of concerns about accommodation provided by the Secretary of State for the Home Office for an asylum seeker and her two small children. The accommodation in question, set in a community setting, consists of one room with sleeping and cooking facilities. Concerns were raised by health officials as to safeguards and welfare of the children.  Although the Home Office fully defended the case in their summary defence, upon providing a reply and report from Bristol City Council Environmental Health Officers (“EHO”) and further evidence, the Home Office settled the case by providing suitable safe alternative accommodation and payment of legal costs.

Bristol City Council EHO found that the room provided to MW and her two children was a hazard of Crowding & Space and that the risk was within bands A/B as a result of overcrowding. This constitutes a category 1 hazard under the Housing Act 2004 under which the Council has a duty to take action. The Council, suggesting the action it would take would be the service of a hazard awareness notice or a prohibition order, stated the accommodation was unsuitable for the household. The Council concluded it would require the landlord to reduce occupation even if it would require eviction.

This case demonstrates the importance of acquiring evidence to ensure the safety and standards of accommodation used to accommodate Asylum Seekers in the community by the Home Office under the Housing Act 2004 and the Environmental Health Act 1990. It is unclear what the service level agreements provided for between the Home Office and providers of such accommodation, disclosure was sought during the litigation but the case settled before this could be addressed.

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