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Judge gives permission for judicial review challenge over suitability of NASS accommodation for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children

The High Court has agreed to hear a judicial review challenge over the suitability of NASS [National Asylum Support Service] accommodation for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, it has been reported.

Doughty Street Chambers said Mrs Justice Lang had granted permission for the judicial review and interim relief in the cases of R (KM, AL and NG) v London Borough of Hillingdon, which involve claims brought on behalf of three unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. It is said to be the first case on the suitability of NASS accommodation.

Doughty Street said: “In each case, it was accepted by the local authority that the claimants must be treated as children pending age assessments, and that they were children in need under CA 1989 [Children Act 1989], however the local authority contended that they were not in need of accommodation such that no duty under section 20 arose, on the basis that they were being provided with accommodation by the Home Office in NASS temporary accommodation in a hotel in Hillingdon’s area and that such accommodation was suitable to meet their needs.”

The set claimed local authorities were increasingly seeking to assert that NASS accommodation was suitable for the purposes of CA 1989.

It said Mrs Justice Lang DBE had ruled that it was arguable that Hillingdon were seeking to side-step their duties owed to the three children in what would be a “significant departure” from statutory guidance and case law.

“In particular, Mrs Justice Lang DBE considered that asylum seekers under the age of 18 are the responsibility of local authorities and NASS accommodation is not intended by statute for children and is not set up to cater for their needs,” Doughty Street said.

“The court held that children faced particular risks in shared accommodation with unknown adults and there was no evidence hotel staff had been notified that they were to be treated as children nor were they had they been adequately trained to safeguard them.”

The High Court judge is reported to have noted that the claimants had not been provided with any education support or medical care and had faced practical difficulties in obtaining support owing to the unavailability of interpreters, and that they had been placed in circumstances where they were isolated and scared.

“The court further took account of the fact that the decision not to accept a section 20 duty, would have an impact on the children’s access to support under leaving care provisions, following their 18th birthdays. The court also accepted that dispersal from NASS hotel accommodation is occurring, which would potentially lead to a child being moved to another location where no facilities for children were available,” Doughty Street added.

The court granted interim relief in all cases, requiring Hillingon to accommodate the claimants as looked after children.

The judicial review claims are to be expedited with a substantive hearing in January 2021, Doughty Street said.

KM, AL and NG are represented by Antonia Benfield and Donnchadh Greene of Doughty Street, instructed by Stuart Luke and Martin Bridger of Instalaw.

Hillingdon Council has been approached for comment.

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