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High Court judge finds council was right to tell failed asylum seeker to obtain support from Home Office

The London Borough of Southwark acted correctly when it told a failed asylum seeker that he must apply to the Home Office for support.

Michael Fordham QC ruled in the High Court in Aburas, R. (on the application of) v London Borough of Southwark [2019] EWHC 2754 that Southwark had discharged its duty towards Shehab Aburas.

He said the claim was for judicial review “on that part of the legal map” where there is an intersection between local authority functions of assessing and meeting adult needs for care and support under Part I of the Care Act 2014 and convention rights in Article 3 giving protection from inhuman and degrading treatment) and Article 8 concerning the right to respect for private and family life.

Mr Aburas argued that he was destitute and in need of accommodation and subsistence, but also had a 'looked-after need' of support by a social worker to access food and medication.

This in turn he said required the provision of supported accommodation, refusal of which had consequences so serious as to breach his convention rights.

Southwark countered that even if Mr Aburas was destitute and in need of accommodation and subsistence, it was for the Home Secretary through Asylum Support to deal with human rights-compatible actions, Southwark having lawfully discharged its statutory 'looked-after needs' functions.

Mr Aburas is “an apparently stateless Palestinian” who arrived in the UK in 1996 and is a failed asylum-seeker without regular immigration status and categorised as having no recourse to public funds.

He is a 'person in breach of immigration control' for the purposes of Schedule 3 paragraphs 1 and 7(1)(a) to the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (NIAA02).

Judge Fordham said: “The evidence in this case raises concerns which go to the question of homelessness, destitution and subsistence.

“But these do not constitute the 'looked-after need' focus of the claim against Southwark. They are matters for the Home Secretary, and for Asylum Support. So far as they are concerned, in my judgment Southwark correctly identified the legally appropriate response in the assessment: “the best course of action is to apply for Asylum Support”.

Evidence put to the court did not show that Mr Aburas needed a social worker to prompt him to take his medication, or to prompt him to eat.

Judge Fordham said: “The evidence does not establish, moreover, that Mr Aburas needs accommodation in order to have the support of a social worker. Nor does the evidence establish that missing taking the medication gives rise to serious suffering.

“Overall, the evidence does not establish that there is an imminent prospect of serious suffering caused or materially aggravated by the refusal to provide supported accommodation.”

Mark Smulian

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