Landmark ruling from High Court that Home Secretary acting unlawfully by failing to provide document to 1000s of migrants with lawful immigration status

The High Court has ruled that the Home Secretary’s failure to provide people on ‘3C leave’ with the means to prove their immigration status is unlawful. 

Echoing the problems encountered by members of the Windrush generation, people on ‘3C leave’ – an automatic form of immigration status when a person applies in-time to extend their visa, granted under s3C of the Immigration Act 1971 –are given no proof of their status. Evidence from the Claimants Ms Adjei and the charity RAMFEL and others demonstrated that this lack of proof of status led to serious hardships for a significant number of people –including loss of job offers and suspensions from employment, termination of benefits, problems with renting and accessing higher education leave amongst others- was accepted by the court: 

Mr Justice Cavanagh found that “[w]here these problems bite, the consequences are very severe indeed.” He observed that it “is not the fault of the applicants that the application to renew will not be determined before the expiry of the previous period of…leave”. [36] 

The failure to provide those on 3C leave with a digital document, which the Home Secretary is “readily” able to do, left potentially hundreds of thousands of people wrongly classified as lacking immigration status and trapped by the government’s hostile environment policies, denying them access to work and other essential services. 

The court ruled that despite the Home Secretary’s broad discretion in how to administer the immigration system, the failure to provide digital proof of status to those on 3C leave was irrational and thus unlawful. The decision frustrated the purpose of 3C leave and the aim of the hostile environment itself which should ensure that those with lawful immigration status are able to access the services they need. Further, the Home Secretary had breached his duty under section 55 Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 to safeguard and promote the welfare of the children impacted. 

The court held that “[t]he availability of a means of proving a person’s immigration status and entitlements, without delay, whilst on section 3C leave, is necessary to make effective a legal right.” [205] Further, that: “this is a case in which the SSHD can take a straightforward step to avoid hardship for a substantial number of people, with no negative consequences for the Home Office or for the immigration regime.”

You can read the full judgment here.

The challenge was brought by Ms Adjei and the migrant charity RAMFEL. RAMFEL is a charity that supports vulnerable migrants living in the London and Essex areas, providing casework support, on a range of legal issues, including regularising immigration leave, rough sleeping support, support with preventing homelessness, and crisis intervention services. Ms Adjei is an individual who was adversely impacted by the SSHD’s failure to issue her with any means to prove her legal immigration status and right to work whilst she was on 3C leave, suffering periods of suspension from employment which caused real hardship to her and her two children. 

The Claimants were represented by Janet Farrell and Christina Bodenes of Bhatt Murphy solicitors, instructing Shu Shin Luh of Doughty Street Chambers. She is co-lead of the Children’s Rights Group and a member of the public law and immigration teams. Shu Shin was led by Stephanie Harrison KC of Garden Court Chambers.

The Claimants urge the SSHD to move swiftly to make the changes required by the High Court’s  judgment, to protect the hundreds of thousands of people at risk of becoming collateral damage to the hostile environment. See RAMFEL’s press release here. See Bhatt Murphy Solicitors’ press release here.