govan law centre

asylum seekers' rights to
accommodation & support: update (22-03-03)


The right to accommodation for asylum seekers is dealt with by the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 ('the 1999 Act'). The Home Secretary may provide accommodation for an asylum seeker who is 'destitute or likely to become destitute' in terms of section 95 of the 1999 Act.  Accommodation is provided though the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) which is a part of the Home Office.  Scope for help was restricted by section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 ('the 2002 Act') which came into force on 8 January 2003.  Section 55 provides that asylum seekers will be refused help if their claim for asylum was not made as 'soon as reasonably practicable' after arrival in the UK. 

Many commentators have claimed that the Home Office has interpreted section 55 unreasonably. For example, the Refuge Council has reported that asylum seekers making claims within 24 hours of entry have been refused accommodation and have been left to sleep rough without food. On 19 February 2003 the High Court held that the Home Office application of section 55 in practice was wrong, and breached Article 3 and 8(1) to schedule 1 of the Human Rights Act 1998. This was because section 55(5) safeguarded asylum seekers' human rights, and the NASS standard rejection letter failed to consider whether claimants would be left destitute.

Download the judgment (PDF) in R(Q) and others v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, Mr Justice Mills, Queens Bench Division 19 February 2003.  The Court of Appeal (html) upheld the High Court's decision in R(Q) and others on 18 March 2003.  Advisors may consult or for further updates.