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Consultation and impact assessment on ending support for failed asylum seekers


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A consultation and impact assessment on the new panic proposals to remove asylum support for failed asylum seekers have been published. These reveal the details of the proposals. The summary of the Government’s preference in the impact assessment is:

Remove support for failed asylum seekers whose asylum claim is finally rejected on or after 1 July 2016, except those with outstanding further submissions or a medical or other practical reason outside their control why for the time being they cannot leave the UK.

The changes are planned for 1 July 2016. The consultation goes into more detail. On section 4 support:

20. We therefore propose to change these arrangements to close off section 4(2) support for failed asylum seekers who make no effort to leave the UK at the point that their asylum claim is finally rejected. Where there was a genuine obstacle preventing return to the country of origin at that point, support could be provided until that obstacle was removed.

21. Support would also continue to be provided to those whose asylum claim had been finally rejected but who for the time being could not reasonably be expected to avoid destitution by leaving the UK because they had lodged with the Home Office further submissions (i.e. a new or repeat claim based on asylum or Article 3 of the ECHR) which were outstanding.

On section 95 support, failed asylum seekers with a dependent child would cease to be classified as asylum seekers for support purposes after a grace period of 28 days from the end of an asylum claim. The grace period could be extended on application

if there was a practical obstacle beyond their control which prevented the family’s departure from the UK. The onus would be on those in receipt of support to make this application before the grace period expired and to demonstrate why they could not leave the UK and that they would otherwise be destitute.

Factors to be considered in deciding whether to extend the grace period would be:

  •  taking all reasonable steps to leave the UK or place themselves in a position in which they would be able to do so, including applying for any travel document required to facilitate their departure; and
  • unable to leave the UK owing to a practical obstacle beyond their control, e.g. the provision by their government of a travel document following their application for it or a medical or physical impediment to travel; or because in the opinion of the Secretary of State there was currently no viable route of return available.

There would be no right of appeal, unlike at present. Nor is there any clear indication of whether or how a family who has lost support might be able to regain it, although the consultation does say:

We propose to consider whether and in what circumstances a failed asylum seeker family co-operating with arrangements for their departure from the UK could later make an application for support where they could then evidence a practical obstacle beyond their control which prevented their departure from the UK.

One of the likely effects is that the cost of maintaining failed asylum seeker families will be transferred to local authorities, who have statutory duties the Home Office does not intend to amend. The consultation takes the view that this will not happen as there will be no human rights breaches, but this seems rather overly optimistic to me.

The impact assessment accepts that the evidence base for achieving behavioural change is weak:

…the financial value of support available is small in comparison to the benefits of living and working in the UK, and as the behavioural response to the withdrawal or restriction of support is difficult to evidence…

You don’t say. A minute’s silence for the death of evidence based policy making, perhaps?

Interested in refugee law? You might like Colin's book, imaginatively called "Refugee Law" and published by Bristol University Press.

Communicating important legal concepts in an approachable way, this is an essential guide for students, lawyers and non-specialists alike.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.