Skip to main content Skip to footer

Where do my rights apply?

Migration and refugee rights

Human rights apply to all interactions with public bodies – which includes the Home Office (and the people they hire to provide services, such as Migrant Help and housing providers) as well as people you might interact with day-to-day, like doctors, health visitors and social workers.

Human rights might be relevant to your asylum or immigration case. Examples include if you need to stay in the UK because you have family or community ties here or if you are seeking asylum on the basis that your life or your right to be free from torture or severe harm is at risk in your home country. However, immigration law is complicated and people can only give immigration advice if they are a lawyer or regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (known as OISC accredited). Right to Remain has an immigration and asylum system toolkit that can help you find a lawyer and understand how the process works.

Human rights issues often come up if you are held in immigration detention without good reason, if you have children who are not being properly protected or if you are unfairly prevented from accessing services because of things like speaking a different language.

Key information

Who is this for:
Individuals and communities

Last updated
22nd November 2022

Share this

Real life stories

The right to life may be at risk if the Home Office does not carry out proper investigations into deaths of people in immigration detention.

Oscar was being detained in an Immigration Removal Centre when he died suddenly from a haemorrhage caused by high blood pressure. He had previously had a high blood pressure reading and tried to see a doctor but had not been able to due to multiple failures in the running of the Removal Centre and following the healthcare policy. Oscar’s friend, Ahmed, had important information about his death that would enable a proper investigation to be carried out but the Home Office tried to deport him before he could help. The court found that this would be a breach of the Article 2 duty to investigate deaths in custody of the State.

The right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment may be at risk when proper systems are not put in place to protect people from harm.

CSM contracted HIV as a child and needs to take antiretroviral medications every day. He claimed asylum in the UK in 2019 and attended a screening interview, after which he was detained for 22 days. Staff wanted to take him to an Immigration Removal Centre straight after the interview but couldn’t take him there unless he had his HIV medication with him. They were unable to get medication until the next day and CSM wasn’t given it until two days later. The court found that the delay in getting CSM his medication and the lack of staff training and guidance on working with detainees with HIV breached the Home Office’s duties.

The right to life may be at risk if police do not investigate cases involving trafficking.

Patience was brought to the UK as a domestic worker and nanny and forced to work for little or no money. She was subject to physical and mental abuse. Her 'employer' took away her passport. When Patience managed to escape with the help of a neighbour and reported her experiences to the police, they refused to take her allegations seriously and closed the case. Human rights organisation Liberty supported Patience to argue that the police had failed to protect Patience's Article 4 right to be free from slavery or forced labour. While the Modern Slavery Act 2015 wasn’t in place at the time, the police could have pursued Patience’s ‘employer’ for criminal abuse. The police reopened Patience’s case and issued her with an apology, compensation, and a promise to improve training given to officers on cases like hers.

The right to liberty may be at risk when people are kept in immigration detention without being told why.

Saadi was an Iraqi man who claimed asylum in the UK and was detained at a reception centre for seven days. Usually, immigration detention is only used when there is no other option, but it is also used as part of the “detained fast-track procedure” where the Home Office believes cases can be decided quickly. This was not explained to Saadi and it wasn’t until 72 hours later that the reason for Saadi’s detention was explained to his lawyer. The European Court on Human Rights held that while detention under the fast-track procedure is lawful, the delay in telling Saadi he was detained breached his right to liberty.

The right to private and family life may be at risk if staff make rules that badly interfere with everyday life for no good reason.

Home office staff began conducting unannounced early morning visits at an accommodation facility for newly arrived people seeking asylum. The visits took place at dawn and no interpreters were present. Residents were woken and made to answer questions. Often those being interviewed had only had a few hours’ sleep, after arriving at the facility very late at night. A voluntary sector organisation, having received human rights training from BIHR and legal advice from Liberty, challenged this practice on the basis that it interfered with the residents’ right to respect for private life. They argued that there were other, more dignified ways to verify who was staying at the facility and for how long. The arguments were successful and the Home Office ceased the practice of these unannounced dawn visits.

The right to be free from discrimination may be at risk if public services do not provide information in other languages or refuse to use interpreters.

A mental health hospital had a practice of detaining asylum seekers who spoke little or no English, under the Mental Health Act, without the use of an interpreter. This meant that the people being detained in the mental health hospital could not understand why they were being detained, or how to challenge it. After participating in a BIHR session, members of a user-led mental health befriending scheme explained to staff that this system wasn’t meeting the safeguards set out in the right to liberty (Article 5). They also argued that it breached the asylum seekers’ right not to be discriminated against on the basis of language. They worked with staff to change the policy on interpreters so people seeking asylum who are detained have access to the same information as everyone else.

The right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions may be at risk when people are prevented from accessing benefits or asylum support payments, which count as “possessions”.

K and AM were accepted by the Home Office to be Potential Victims of Trafficking and so entitled to £65 per week in financial support (minus any other money received from the Home Office) while their cases were ongoing. They were also seeking asylum and people seeking seekers were entitled to £37.75 per week in asylum support. K and AM were only given £37.75 per week so that they didn’t receive more than other people seeking asylum – but this left them £27.25 short of the amount they should have been receiving as Potential Victims of Trafficking. The court said this was an interference with their right to possessions. The court also said that treating Potential Victims of Trafficking in the same way as other people seeking asylum was discrimination under Article 14 because their circumstances were different and should be treated differently.

Stay up-to-date

Get our newsletter

Get monthly updates on UK human rights law and our work, resources and events sent straight to your inbox.