24 June 2021: Freemovement: High Court strikes down pandemic protections for refused asylum seekers
The High Court has overturned a tribunal judgment that had instructed the Home Office to house refused asylum seekers until lockdown restrictions end. The decision in R (Secretary of State for the Home Department) v First-tier Tribunal (Social Entitlement Chamber)  EWHC 1690 (Admin) is said to affect at least 1,000 people.
Asylum support during the pandemic has generated a serious volume of litigation. The ruling at issue here was handed down by the head judge at the asylum support tribunal on 29 April 2021, in the case of AM. The headline finding, as paraphrased by the High Court, was:
the health risks associated with the pandemic are such that the Secretary of State is legally required to provide accommodation and support not only to AM, but also to all destitute failed asylum-seekers, until step 4 on the Roadmap is reached.
The “Roadmap” is the government’s timetable for lifting lockdown restrictions in England. Step 4 — the removal of all legal limits on social contact — was slated to be “no earlier than 21 June“; it will now be either 5 or 19 July.
The Home Office challenged the AM ruling by way of judicial review, and has now won.
The upshot is that the pandemic no longer provides refused asylum seekers with an entitlement to support if they aren’t already in the system. Those who are already housed should however be protected by a settlement reached in a different case, in which the government agreed “not to restart negative cessations until step 4”. More detail on all this from the Asylum Support Appeals Project.