A judge in London said Mr Blunkett's practice of withholding information
about the scheme was based partly on the view that making the policy more
'It is a fundamental requisite of the rule of law that the law should be
made known,' said Mr Justice Stanley Burnton.
'The individual must be able to know of his legal rights and obligations.'
There was no evidence to justify the home secretary's view that wider
publication of the scheme would encourage undeserved applications.
Hard case support comprises basic full board accommodation, normally outside London. To receive it the person must be able to show they are complying with efforts to remove them from the UK.
Ordering a reconsideration of his non-disclosure policy, the judge said Mr
Blunkett would 'doubtless' take into account evidence that some people
unaware of their eligibility for hard case support made false duplicate
asylum claims to obtain assistance and ended up in prison.
'Quite apart from other considerations, the cost of keeping them in prison
must be very much greater than the cost of YMCA accommodation,' the judge
Mr Blunkett was given leave to appeal against the ruling, which came in the
case of Iraqi Kurd Ibrahim Salih and Iranian Behnam Rahmani.
Both men are now receiving accommodation and support but won permission to
challenge the non-disclosure policy as unlawful.
Mr Salih, who is staying at a privately-run house for asylum seekers in
Birmingham, eventually discovered that he qualified as an exceptional case
for continuing support because, although he was complying with effor ts to
remove him from the UK, no safe route had yet been found for his return to
He had stated: 'I have only been able to survive by begging others in the
house for food. It is difficult and stressful. The others cannot afford to
support me. I cannot get enough to eat. My diet is very poor.
'I feel degraded by my situation. I am desperate for support.'
Mr Rahmani's case was also considered exceptional because he has won
permission to challenge the refusal of asylum in the courts in a case which
the home secretary regards as 'not wholly unmeritorious'.
The two men, like other asylum seekers, are not allowed to work for gain and found themselves destitute when support was withdrawn after the failure of their asylum pleas.
Neither was informed by the government's National Asylum Support Service -
or, initially, by any other agency or lawyer - that they might still qualify for continuing support as 'hard cases'.
The judge said the home secretary's assumption that legal representatives
and voluntary organisations were adequate sources of information about the
hard case scheme was 'unfounded as a matter of fact'.
He said it was a 'matter of concern' that many lawyers acting for asylum
seekers did not inform their clients of the scheme.
It was 'unprofessional and certainly uncaring' for solicitors simply to
close their file once a destitute asylum seeker's claim had been rejected.
He also found it surprising that those who sought advice from the Refugee
Council might not be told of the scheme or referred to solicitors who could
advise about it.
The judge said he was 'by no means insensitive' to the problems caused by
large-scale immigration of asylum seekers.
He had in mind that Mr Salih and other Iraqi Kurds whose cases had failed
for lack of credibility must be regarded as economic migrants.
But, by introducing the hard cases scheme, Mr Blunkett 'has himself
recognis ed that common humanity requires that even failed asylum seekers,
who are prohibited from working and have no other avenue of support, and
have good reason not to return to their own countries, must be provided with the essential basics of life.'
Welcoming the fact that Mr Blunkett had been given leave to appeal against
the ruling, a Home Office spokesman said: 'In the majority of cases there is nothing to prevent a failed asylum seeker from leaving the UK and therefore most will not qualify.
'In some cases where a failed asylum seeker is unable to leave immediately
through no fault of their own, the Home Office will consider a request for
hard case support.
'However, given that only a small minority of people qualify for hard case
support, we feel that widely publicising it will encourage abusive
applications from those not eligible, further delaying support for those who do.'
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