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High Court to rule on release of immigration detainees at high risk from COVID-19


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In R (Samson Bello) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2020] EWHC 950 (Admin), the High Court has refused to release a man at high risk of COVID-19 complications from immigration detention. 

Instead, Mr Justice Chamberlain ordered a rolled-up hearing to take place on 29 April 2020 [corrected: we originally said 27 April]. At that hearing the judge will consider the important issue of whether underlying health conditions, or “comorbidities”, indicating a higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19 should be recognised as Level 3 evidence under the Adults at Risk policy

Once the Home Office accepts that a detainee has Level 3 evidence, it will only keep him or her in detention if removal will take place in the immediate future or there are significant public protection concerns. The resolution of this question will have huge implications for the use of detention during the coronavirus crisis.

Chamberlain J’s preliminary view is as follows:

As to [Mr Bello’s] vulnerability to COVID-19, there is a real question of interpretation as to whether every person identified as vulnerable by reason of comorbidities ipso facto falls to be categorised as a level 3 risk. That turns on whether it can be said of such a person that continued detention would be “likely to cause harm”. I see some force in Mr Buley’s suggestion that the answer to that question is yes, but I do not think the answer is obvious. The word “likely” can mean different things in different contexts.

Watch this space.

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Alex Schymyck

Alex Schymyck

Alex is a barrister at Garden Court Chambers