This is a landmark ruling from 2012. The claim was brought by two men, neither of whom had children in the UK. Their first claim for asylum failed. They then submitted a new claim. The Home Office had a legal duty to provide accommodation to asylum seekers in their position, but the asylum seekers had to make an application to be housed first. The claimants argued that there was a deliberate, systematic delay of fifteen days before their application for accommodation would be considered. During this time, they were homeless and destitute.
They were not alone. There were a significant number of asylum seekers in the same position, street homeless, suffering illness or disability and, in one case, psychiatric illness. The judge said that the failure of the Home Office to provide access to support for asylum seekers waiting for a decision on their further claim for asylum was leading to homelessness and destitution. This was a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights –the right not to be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
This case was about asylum seekers, but it was also about the public purse. In 2009/2010, it cost the government £102 million to provide the kind the support these claimants were seeking. The total cost of providing asylum support in the same year was £514 million. This case is important because the court made a judgment that had implications for how government money must be spent. The court effectively told the government that, because of its duties under the European Convention on Human Rights, the UK’s duties under the European Convention on Human Rights had to be fulfilled, whatever the cost.