UK High Court rules systematic child-asylum detention in Hotels is Illegal

Earlier this month, the government successfully obtained Royal Assent to the Illegal Migration Bill, placing the bill on the statute books as of 20th July, as the ‘Illegal Migration Act 2023’. However, the Home Secretary seems subsequently to have been beset by a series of obstacles to her much-criticised proposals for housing migrants arriving on the UK’s shores. The latest of these occurred on Thursday this week, as an historic landmark ruling in the High Court determined that the Home Office’s use of hotels to house unaccompanied child asylum-seekers, has been unlawful for more than 18 months.

Government arrangements for housing lone youngsters ‘not fit for purpose’

Judge Chamberlain said the practice and the arrangements of housing lone youngsters in Home Office run hotels were ‘not fit for purpose’ and pointed out that the power to place the children in hotels may only be used for:

‘…very short periods in true emergency situations…it cannot be used systematically or routinely in circumstances where it is intended, or functions in practice, as a substitute for local authority care’

One of the principal obstacles to obtaining approval in the House of Lords to the recently enacted Illegal Migration bill, were concerns over the treatment of unaccompanied child asylum-seekers and in particular the ability of the state to indefinitely detain children and the continuing practice of housing unaccompanied minors in hotels.  Several charities have campaigned vigorously against to continuing practice of the state to house unaccompanied children under 16, in hotels.

Over 900 unaccompanied children housed in hotels last year

The Refugee Council pointed out in a report published at the end of last year, that almost 900 unaccompanied children under the age of 16 had been housed in hotels during 2022. An inspection review report published by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) in October 2022, determined that there were substantial failings in the government’s provisions for unaccompanied children. The CEO of the Refugee Council, Enver Solomon, at that time said:

‘Today’s ICIBI report shows that the government is clearly failing in its duty to safeguard children and it has no proper long-term plan for improving its operations and how it deals with unaccompanied children. We echo the report’s recommendation that this practice need to end. Every effort must be made by the government to ensure all children are taken into the care of local authorities as a matter of urgency’

Following this week’s ruling Enver Solomon declared ‘There can be no compromise when it comes to children’s safety and welfare’.

Home Secretary intends to house asylum seekers in tents as government advisors compare plans to concentration camps

In the last few days, the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has faced criticism after she announced that the government has purchased marquees in which it intends to house as many as 2000 migrants on disused military sites by the end of August – in order to avoid having to house them in ‘costly’ hotels.

UK Home Secretary, Suella Braverman plans to house migrants in Marquees

Whilst the government has defended this decision to use tents to house asylum seekers, arguing that tents had been used in other European countries during times of crisis such as with the Ukrainian refugees, the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman was reminded that during the Boris Johnson administration, it was decided that such use would most likely trigger legal challenges on the grounds of inhumane treatment of asylum seekers. Some government advisors had compared the use of tents to concentration camps.

The Bibby Stockholm migrant barge arriving at Portland Harbour on July 18th

Migrant barge deemed unsafe

Additionally this week, there have been concerns raised about the safety of the asylum barge, Bibby Stockholm, which docked in Portland Harbour in Devon and which expects to see the first tranche of asylum seekers arriving next Tuesday. There have been preliminary investigations which have exposed the absence of sufficient life jackets on board the vessel and to date there has been no full risk assessment conducted. It has also been revealed that repair work on the Bibby Stockholm remained unfinished and parts of the vessel were found to be rotten.


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