Yusif Adam arrived in the UK from Sudan and claimed asylum the following day.

Wayoka Limbulea arrived in the UK from Angola and claimed asylum the following day.

Binyam Tefera Tesema arrived in the UK from Ethiopia and claimed asylum the following day. 

And because of this delay between arriving and claiming asylum – a delay of one day! - the Home Office refused to provide any of them with accommodation or financial support. 

The Home Office was using part of a new law which said that asylum seekers could be refused support if they failed to make their asylum claim as soon as reasonably practicable.  Estimates suggested that 10,000 people had been left homeless and without food since the measure was brought in over a year earlier.

The three men (who didn’t know each other before the case) were left in a really difficult position.  As asylum seekers they were not allowed to work.  Without accommodation or money, they could be homeless and hungry.  Other asylum seekers who made their asylum claim immediately they arrived were provided with accommodation and a modest amount of financial support.  Without this asylum seekers would be destitute. 

The new law actually said that the Home Office could make an exception and provide support to people who claimed late - if their human rights would be violated otherwise.  But the Home Office wasn’t doing that.

Shelter supported the test case of Adam, Limbuela and Tesema.  It was brought under the Human Rights Act and went all the way to the House of Lords.  In November 2005 the Law Lords concluded that failure to provide accommodation and support meant the men were at risk of being homeless and without adequate food and that this breached their human rights.  Specifically it breached their rights under Article 3, the right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment. 

Following this ruling, asylum seekers who apply late may receive accommodation and financial support if the alternative is a real risk of destitution.  This case therefore changed the situation for thousands of vulnerable people in desperate need.

The case was particularly significant in that the House of Lords recognised that failure by the state to provide social support which results in an individual being at real risk of becoming destitute amounts to “inhuman and degrading treatment.”  

This Blog was written by Debora Singer from Asylum Aid