JCWI | 18.03.2003 12:03
Under section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act, 2002, those who didn't apply for asylum at the earliest possible opportunity were made destitute by the Home Office. There was no mechanism for appeal and the draconian policy applied even if the individual was advised- and believed- that they did not need to apply for asylum at the point of entry.
Liberty and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants have led the campaign against these provisions.
In 2002, Iraq topped the list of those applying for asylum in the UK- accounting for nearly one fifth of the 85,000 applicants. Shami Chakrabarti, lawyer for the human rights organisation Liberty siad:
"The Government has had a terrible message for all those fleeing Iraq and other nightmarish regimes. Thay are not alowed to work. They may not receive state benefits. They must beg, steal and prostitute themselves or starve on the streets of the UK. This is an outrageous affront to basic human dignity.
"Our victory today marks a critical step in securing decent treatment for all. The court has found that it is degrading to deny people both the right to work and any access to support. The system operated by the government would have been unfair, unjust and inflexible. It is thanks to the independence of our judiciary and our human rights legislatio that thousands of people fleeing for their lives now have a ray of hope."
Habib Rahman, chief executive of the JCWI, said:
"This decision represents victory for the most basic principles of humanity and compassion which the K has historically extended to all those who are here. Asylum seekers should not be treated differently to anyone else. They are fleeing from tyranny and persecution and are the most marginalised, vulnerable members of society.
The decision vindicates JCWI's assertion that the government's actions are in direct conflict with its human rights obligations. There is no justification for dividing asylum seekers into two groups and making one group sleep out on the streets by denying them support.
The government should now acknowledge that it cannot compromise the basic rights of asylum seekers simply to achieve political targets and to deter them from coming to the UK. Whatever its plans are for future asylum policy, it will be expected to discharge its internatioanl dutiesto asylum seekers and refugees.
For further information contact:
Tauhid Pasha, Legal Policy and Information Director on 020 7608 7304 or 07813 320212 or habib Rahman, Chief Executive on 0207 553 7456.