R (on the application of M) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (2018) Shu Shin Luh of the Garden Court Chambers Public Law Team represented the claimant (M) instructed by Nusrat Uddin of Wilson Solicitors LLP. This case is reported in the Independent, ‘Modern slavery victims 'drawn back into exploitation' after Home Office slashes support’.
The defendant Home Office applied to discharge an order for interim relief restoring the claimant asylum seeker's weekly subsistence payments to their previous rate.
The claimant, a Sierra Leone national, had entered the UK in 2012 and claimed asylum. There were grounds to believe that she was a victim of trafficking. She suffered from HIV and had mental health issues due to being trafficked. She received weekly subsistence payments of £65.
Following a policy change by the Home Office, in March 2018 the claimant's weekly payment was reduced by over 40% to £37.75. The claimant asserted that the policy change was contrary to the UK’s trafficking obligations and made without regard to her personal circumstances.
The consequences of the cuts have been grave. The claimant could no longer maintain the special diet she required to manage the very strong anti-retroviral medication or afford to have credit on her mobile phone for urgent medical advice from her GP. Nor can she afford the travel costs to access support groups essential for her therapeutic recovery.
The claimant’s requests for additional support were not dealt with by the Home Office on the sole basis that she did not use the requisite form. When it was eventually rejected, the decision was not provided to her. On that basis, in view of the significant detriment to her physical and mental health suffered as a result of the reduction in her weekly subsistence, she sought a court order directing interim payments with immediate effect. This was granted by the High Court. The Home Office did not comply with the order but instead sought to discharge this, making allegations that the application was premised on misleading information. With that application, the Home Office provided the letter refusing the claimant’s request for additional funding.
On 4 October 2018, a High Court Judge ordered the Home Office to provide the additional £27.25 per week which had been cut from her weekly subsistence. The Judge did so, having found that the claimant did not mislead the Court in seeking her interim injunction and that allegation was ill-founded. The Judge also found that the substantive allegation against the Home Office of breaches of the UK’s trafficking obligations in cutting subsistence payments to victims of trafficking raised more than one serious issue to be tried. The Judge also found that the prejudice to the claimant outweighed any prejudice that might be caused to the Home Office, given the low sums ordered against the Home Office.