19 Feb High Court challenge to Home Secretary’s unlawful imposition of 23-hour daily curfew on those in asylum support accommodation
The Claimant is an asylum seeker in hotel accommodation provided by the Home Secretary. He has been told that he must remain in his hotel for 23 hours per day. That rule applies to all of the asylum seekers accommodated in the Claimant’s hotel, and we have heard that this or similar time restrictions have been applied in at least 10 other hotels also.
MG&Co has issued judicial review proceedings challenging the imposition of a 23 hour daily curfew alleging that there is no legal basis for such restrictions and therefore the Claimant is being falsely imprisoned and deprived of his liberty, contrary to Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
The Secretary of State is providing our client with accommodation because he is destitute and has a fresh claim for asylum. As with many other asylum seekers since the pandemic first began, this has come in the form of a hotel room. The hotel is managed by Clearsprings Ready Homes Ltd, the Secretary of State’s main contractor for providing asylum accommodation in London and the South East, and Stay Belvedere Hotels Ltd
Since moving to the hotel in mid-January 2021, our client has been subjected to a rule whereby he cannot leave the hotel premises for more than an hour a day. This is being applied to the many other asylum seekers who are also resident in the hotel.
The rule means our client can only undertake permitted activities such as exercise and shopping for essential living needs if he returns to the hotel within one hour. He has been told that If he were to take longer than this he would be reported to the Home Office and his asylum claim and ongoing accommodation could be affected.
Security guards based by the front door enforce this rule by requiring asylum seekers to sign in and out with the time and by asking questions about where they are going and what they are doing. Bags are regularly checked upon re-entry to the hotel. Our client has been told he cannot leave his room after 12midnight even to get some fresh air.
Basis for claim of unlawfulness
Nothing in the relevant legislation, including coronavirus regulations, places any time restriction on how long any person can spend outside of their home performing permissible activities including things like exercise and going to the shops. He and others like him are therefore being subjected to rules which are therefore far harsher than the general population.
The Secretary of State has yet to respond to the judicial review but she is by Order of the Administrative Court required to file her response by 4pm 19 February 2021.
Impact on the client
Our client has described to us that he feels like a prisoner, like he is constantly watched and always has to justify his movements. He is frightened that if he fails to get back to the hotel within one hour then his asylum claim and ongoing accommodation will be affected.
Our client has fled persecution and suffers from mental health problems caused by past trauma. The imposition and enforcement of this curfew is a reminder of past experiences of state detention and abuse which he experienced in his country of origin. They are affecting his ability to cope with these traumas and his mental health conditions.
Evidence the restrictions are being applied at other hotels
MG&Co has also received reports that the one hour curfew or other similar time restrictions are being imposed in at least nine other hotels in London across different hotel chains and one outside of London. Our client’s situation is clearly therefore not an aberration.
Rachel Etheridge of MG&Co says as follows,
“Whilst this is a time where everyone is making sacrifices to try to fight the coronavirus, there is no lawful or moral justification for imposing restrictions on the lives of asylum seekers which are more stringent than those which are being applied to the wider population. To keep a person confined to their room for effectively 23 hours a day will undoubtedly impact on a person’s mental health. That is particularly so given that many asylum seekers will already have mental health issues caused by the experiences that led them to claim asylum in the first place. These are vulnerable men, women and children who are housed in asylum support accommodation. We call on the Secretary of State to stop her accommodation providers from continuing with this practice which is negatively impacting on the many asylum seekers who have come to this country seeking sanctuary from state abuse with an expectation of fair treatment”.
The Claimant is represented by Rachel Etheridge and Clare Jennings of MG&Co with Shu Shin Luh of Doughty Street Chambers.
The Guardian’s article can be read here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/feb/19/asylum-seeker-brings-case-against-covid-curfew-at-london-hotel