Challenges With Hotel Accommodations: A High Bar?

A case challenging the broken and disorganised accommodation system of the Home Office was dismissed by the High Court. MQ, R (On the Application Of) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department [2023] EWHC 205 (Admin) is the name of the case.

In anticipation of their “dispersal” to a self-contained flat, the claimant and her two young children had spent months in a hotel. Eventually, they were moved, but the claim persisted. They claimed that the Secretary of State was violating an unstated policy that required a high bar of “extraordinary circumstances” before evicting families from hotels, and that this was being done without due consideration for the needs of dependant children.

Instead, the Court opted to envision a system plagued by resource shortages and haphazard (lawful) decision-making. A successful challenge to the disastrous Napier Barracks was made in NB & Ors, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2021] EWHC 1489 (Admin), and HHJ Bird sought to reiterate that when challenging the sufficiency of asylum housing, “it is plain that the hurdle the Claimant has to overcome is a high one.” In other words, a hotel must be assumed to be adequate because Napier was so horrible.

The scope for success is greater than the tone of MQ would imply, not least because there is older Court of Appeal authority on “adequacy” and the requirement to have rational regard to specific needs. Claims for judicial review in the High Court on the adequacy of hotel accommodations are invariably fact-specific.

The media’s focus on the expense of sheltering up to 40,000 asylum seekers in hotels – “£5 million a day” – obscures the prolonged suffering many endure while waiting to be dispersed or have their status resolved.

A few of my recent cases illustrate this point: a four-year-old girl who suffered severe asthma attacks because of structural damp; a profoundly deaf man who spent months alone and far away from his only source of support; an elderly couple whose physical health was failing but who were unable to leave their small room; and a torture victim with psychosis who struggled to sleep in a shared facility. Through her private contractors, the defendant is demonstrating a remarkable capacity for accommodation after claims are filed.

Even for people whose circumstances are objectively reasonable in the short to medium term, it is difficult to meet all of one’s basic necessities on £9.10 per week (aside from food, drink and toiletries). Unless you’re a Ukrainian who is fortunate enough to be housed by Grant Shapps, this is what the majority of asylum seekers go through. Dispersal at least implies relocating to independent housing and having more freedom.

A claimant’s susceptibility, the hotel’s quality, and how long they stay there all play major roles. The Court once again declared that “adequacy” can depend on how long you have been in a place in AMA v. Secretary of State for the Home Department [2021] EWHC 2646 (Admin) (available on Westlaw). It is not an unchanging, eternal standard:

“Accommodation may be adequate if it is only to be occupied for a short time, but may become inadequate as time goes by. Indeed, that is what s.97 of the Act expressly refers to, the accommodation being adequate in the context of its being temporary. The parties have not been able to tell me how long it is expected before the claimant’s asylum claim will be finally determined, but it needs to be remembered that this is, in that sense, always temporary accommodation.

What is required is an objective assessment of what the claimant and her son need in the light of their particular circumstances, which includes her medical treatment and its effect on them both.”

That makes reasonable and is in line with the strategy used in the local authority accommodation caselaw.

In a “Suitability of Contingency Accommodation” policy, the Home Office continued to ostensibly instruct its caseworkers at the end of 2020 that children, the elderly, the crippled, and torture victims should not be assigned hotels. Her current stance is crystal clear: hotels are appropriate, and you may wait years for dispersed housing without breaking the law.

The Illegal Migration Law would merely exacerbate the decision-making backlogs that contributed to the growth in the number of homeless individuals needing housing (and the use of hotels) in the first place by producing thousands of “inadmissibles” who are not deportable.

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Written by:

Tahir Shahab Khan

Managing Director