GMLC and Deighton Pierce Glynn have been representing clients against the Home Office to prevent them from being evicted during the pandemic. The cases have potential repercussions for thousands of other refused asylum seekers currently housed in asylum accommodation. On Thursday 6 May, a judge criticised Priti Patel and extended the injunction introduced last year, meaning evictions are still suspended – an important win, but one that will continue to be contested.
At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, the Home Office announced that they would suspend evictions of destitute asylum seekers. But in September 2020, the Home Office announced their plan to restart evictions.
In October 2020, GMLC were instructed by three clients who had received Notice to leave their asylum accommodation who wished to challenge the decision to resume evictions of refused asylum seekers during the pandemic.
In November 2020, the court made an interim order prohibiting evictions, and following this the Home Secretary suspended the Home Office’s eviction policy. As a consequence, an estimated 4,000 people have remained in accommodation during the second wave of the Covid pandemic.
On 1 April 2021, the Home Secretary announced her new policy, which aimed to restart evictions from 12 April 2021. On 23 April, our clients were granted permission to amend their case to challenge the new policy and specifically whether the Home Secretary had acted lawfully by prioritising her policy of immigration control (encouraging people to leave the UK voluntarily by allowing them to fall into homelessness and destitution) over public health and the risk to BAME communities and disabled people.
The case was listed for final hearing on the 5 and 6 May. However, on 6 May, the Home Secretary’s legal team were forced to ask for the case to be adjourned because they were unable to confirm the Home Secretary’s position about her legal powers to accommodate people during the pandemic. The court agreed but only on the basis that the Home Office would not be permitted to make eviction decisions or serve 21-day eviction notices until the next hearing of the case.
The date for the next hearing is yet to be confirmed, but it is expected to be at the end of May.
Greater Manchester Law Centre commented on the decision:
The Home Secretary has been trying to evict thousands of migrants during the pandemic despite the risks to the communities they live in from doing so. She has been unable to properly defend these claims in court today, despite being told in clear and strong terms by a high court judge to do so.
Read more about the hearing on 6 May on The Guardian’s website here.