Councils cannot wash their hands of young refugees, court rules

`Councils cannot pass responsibility for housing onto central government’
15th October 2010: Councils cannot wash their hands of young refugees, a court of law has ruled.
In a significant ruling, it has held the councils cannot pass responsibility for housing and maintaining them onto central government.

The ruling came on the plea of a `mystery’ asylum seeker. His true identity and age are a matter of dispute.

The Eritrean asylum seeker came to the UK in 2007. Claiming to be just 17, he projected himself as a “child in need”.

Barking and Dagenham Council housed him and provided more than £50-a-week for food and other essentials. Approximately £120-a-month was handed over to cover his travel to and from a south London college, where he is studying electronics.

The Home Office, on the other hand, insisted he was not what he was claiming to be. Further insisting he was born in 1987, the Home Office said he could not be placed in the category of a child in need. In fact, it claimed he first arrived in the UK as a visitor from Saudia Arabia and was now 23.
Agreeing with the Home Office, an immigration judge rejected his asylum claim in 2008.

But Barking and Dagenham continued to insist he was born in 1990 and was, therefore, now aged 20.

Taking up the matter, Lord Justice Tomlinson said despite continuing doubts over his identity, age and entitlement to support, the council has, to its credit, carried on providing him with essential maintenance and support.

Lord Justice Tomlinson ruled the council does have the power to accommodate SO as a “former relevant child” under the terms of the 1989 Children Act.

The judge, sitting with Lord Justice Leveson and Lord Justice Jacob, also ruled Barking and Dagenham was not entitled to refuse him support on grounds that he was “likely to receive assistance” instead from the National Asylum Support Agency.


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