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Dispersal

This content applies to England

When asylum seekers are dispersed throughout the UK and challenging dispersal. Also given are details on accommodation centres and the level of support that dispersed asylum seekers can receive .

Effect of dispersal and housing costs

Destitute asylum applicants who have been accepted as eligible for support from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) - formerly the UK Border Agency - are housed in regions throughout the UK, away from London and the south east of England, on a 'no choice' basis. Areas used for dispersal include Glasgow, Birmingham and Manchester.

UKVI accommodation will give rise to a local connection for the purposes of the Housing Act 1996. Section 11 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc) Act 2004 provided that such accommodation is accommodation of choice. An asylum seeker will have a local connection with the last district in which UKVI accommodation was provided. If the asylum seeker was accommodated in Scotland and presents as homeless in England or Wales, no full housing duty arises. Instead, the housing authority may decide that accommodation is available, affording the applicant a reasonable opportunity to obtain housing, or may provide advice and assistance to enable the applicant to secure accommodation. This would not be the case if the asylum seeker could demonstrate a local connection with the district to which s/he has applied. See Local connection for more information.

Although UKVI has responsibility for ensuring that eligible destitute asylum applicants are provided for, it does not directly provide the support itself. Instead, it enters into contracts with accommodation providers including local authorities, registered social landlords (housing associations) and private landlords.

The accommodation provider is responsible for meeting the costs of heating, light and water, as well as council tax, at the allocated premises. This will be stated in the contractual agreement between UKVI and the accommodation provider, which will also have other support responsibilities for the asylum seekers, including informing them about local services. However, there will be no formal agreement between the accommodation provider and the asylum seeker will have no security of tenure (see Who is an excluded occupier? for details) and will not be able to rely on any implied covenants of repair. However, the asylum-seeker may complain to the accommodation provider about poor housing conditions and from there to UKVI if they are not resolved. They may also wish to complain to the local council's Environmental Health Officer if the accommodation is in a such a condition that it may have a detrimental impact on their health or safety (see Housing Health and Safety Rating System for more information)

Challenging dispersal

There are very few circumstances in which an asylum seeker can establish that it is not reasonable to disperse her/him out of London and the south east of England to other parts of the UK. However, an asylum applicant may be allowed to remain in London and the south east if, for example:

  • s/he has found alternative housing with a friend or relative and can claim subsistence-only support
  • s/he is too ill to travel and s/he has a doctor's note to prove this
  • in the case of a female asylum seeker, she is at a late stage of pregnancy and unable to travel
  • dispersal will interfere with a course of medical treatment or there is no medical treatment for the particular condition available in the dispersal area (see Healthcare needs and pregnancy dispersal guidance)
  • s/he has been accepted for treatment at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture[1]
  • there is a specific risk of serious racial harassment in the area that s/he is being dispersed to[2]
  • dispersal will interfere with the welfare of a child. It was decided in the case of a torture survivor with HIV[3] that dispersal was unlawful because it would interfere with the welfare of his son, who was traumatised after having observed the torture of his father and having been racially harassed, and had been receiving support from his school and social services in London.

On 6 February 2005, an EC Directive setting out minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers was implemented.[4] One of the effects of the Directive has been that UKVI will no longer withdraw support where a childless asylum seeker fails to travel to a dispersal area. Instead, the offer of the accommodation in the dispersal area remains open. As there has been no termination of support, the asylum seeker will not be able to appeal the decision to the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber). The only means of challenge is judicial review. An asylum seeker would make the challenge on the ground that accommodation is not adequate, but s/he should consider making the application after first moving into the accommodation, as UKVI will not provide other support pending the outcome of any judicial review unless the asylum seeker obtains an interim order from the High Court.

Accommodation centres

The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 gave the UK Government the power to introduce holding centres for asylum seekers as an alternative to the current arrangements. Due to widespread opposition and a reduction in the numbers of asylum seekers, it was later announced that the measures would not be used.

Level of support

Dispersed asylum applicants receive a weekly subsistence allowance. According to the regulations that provide for the payments, the subsistence payable is quoted 'as a general rule', and there is scope for asylum seekers to receive more or less than this level of support, where appropriate.[5]

Asylum applicants claim money using an identity card, the application registration card, known as the ARC, which is issued by UKVI asylum screening unit in Croydon or Liverpool. The cardholder is required to present her/himself at the specified post office with her/his application registration card, the details of which will be verified before s/he receives payment in cash.

Unaccompanied children

The responsibility for the support and accommodation of asylum applicants below the age of 18 who arrive in the UK without close adult family members falls to local authorities under the Children Act 1989. For information about the dispersal of unaccompanied children see Help for ineligible children and families.

[1] Policy Bulletin 31: Dispersal Policy.

[2] R (on the application of Gezer) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2003] EWHC 860 (Admin).

[3] R v Secretary of State for the Home Department ex parte M [2002] EWHC Admin 1924; November 2002 Legal Action 25.

[4] Council Directive 2003/09/EC, 27 January 2003.

[5] reg 10 Asylum Support Regulations 2000 SI 2000/704 as amended with effect from 10 August 2015 by Asylum Support (Amendment No.3) Regulations 2015 SI 2015/1501.

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