The High Court has today granted the application of several applicants for the judicial review of the new support provisions that came into effect on 8th January.


Section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act purports to deny support to many asylum seekers who, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, fail to claim asylum “as soon as reasonably practicable”.  The provision does not apply to families with minor children. There is also an exception in the case of asylum seekers who can show that denial of support will breach their rights under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights (the ECHR).


This new provision follows on from the Secretary of State’s decision on 23 July 2002 to prohibit asylum-seekers from working. Previously, that prohibition had only lasted for the first six months of any application for asylum.


The Secretary of State’s interpretation of Section 55 has been very strict. Many asylum seekers have been denied support notwithstanding that they have claimed asylum very shortly after they have arrived in the UK.


Denial of support will leave many asylum seekers without a roof over their head and without any money to feed themselves. Since they are prevented from working to support themselves, many without family or friends in this country will be left destitute.


The Refugee Legal Centre is therefore pleased that the High Court has granted the applications for judicial review. We have been very concerned with the welfare of clients who have been left destitute.


Aside from the problems our clients experience in surviving without either state support or the right to support themselves by taking employment, we are particularly concerned that those who qualify for refugee status will not be able to pursue their asylum claims and so gain access to protection. This is because Home Office systems are not accessible to those, eg, without permanent addresses and money to travel to interviews and make telephone calls. Also many of the clients we see are traumatised, and face great difficulties in recounting their experiences at the best of times. This task is made more difficult when they are hungry, cold and destitute, and having to think more of their day to day survival on the streets.


We understand the Home Office may wish to appeal the High Court’s decision, although the judgment appears on its face to be clear. If the Home Office does appeal the decision, we would welcome the Court of Appeal being given an opportunity to consider the correct approach to destitute people who are prevented from working. We hope that while any appeal is ongoing, the Home Office will respect the Court’s request that a humane and liberal approach will be adopted towards destitute human beings who are prevented from working to support themselves.



19th February 2003


For further information, please contact the Director’s Office: 020 7780 3222




There are many justifiable reasons as to why a person may not make a claim immediately on arrival in the UK. In addition there is no evidence to suggest that the claims of those who do not claim asylum on arrival are weaker than those who do. Indeed, the Home Office’s own statistics would suggest that in 2001 the reverse was true. Provisional Home Office statistics for that year confirm that of 11,180 grants of asylum, 3,685 were made in respect of claims which were made on arrival and 7,495 were made in respect of claims made subsequently (see Hansard, Commons Written Answers, 21st October 2002).