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Afghan children and their families abandoned in remote hotels following High Court ruling

Posted 24 Mar 2023

Afghan families remain trapped in remote hotels following today’s High Court ruling that the Home Secretary did not act unlawfully by moving them from a London hotel to hotels in a city in the north of England. The move significantly disrupted the children’s education and adults’ employment. Following the judgment, the families remain in temporary accommodation and at risk of further moves, as the Home Office has failed to secure the settled accommodation it promised. The families have been stuck in hotels for over one and a half years since being evacuated from Afghanistan in August 2021.

On 17 January 2023, the High Court in London heard how the unexpected move to a hotel on the outskirts of a northern city resulted in the risk to employment, training opportunities, school places, access to specialist psychological support and the support networks the families had built in London.

Among the families were teenage girls who were preparing to take GCSE exams and have had their education severely disrupted by the move. They have faced long delays in obtaining school places. Some have been offered places up to two hours journey away from the families’ accommodation.

Lawyers representing the families from Public Law Project, Shelter and Deighton Pierce Glynn argued that the Home Secretary had a duty to consider the best interests of the children and had failed to make adequate enquiries of the families’ circumstances before relocating them. The families argued that she had unlawfully failed to ensure there would be school places available for their children.

The families were evacuated from Afghanistan in 2021 as part of Operation Pitting and the government’s Operation Warm Welcome promised to ensure “Afghans arriving in the UK receive the vital support they need to rebuild their lives, find work, pursue education, and integrate into their local communities.” Among the families is a former soldier who fought alongside British and American forces against the Taliban.

The High Court ruled that the Home Secretary did not owe a duty to ‘safeguard and promote’ the best interests of the children affected by the moves, as she was not exercising an ‘immigration function’. The High Court further ruled that even if she had owed such a duty, it was sufficient that she had given the Local Authority an opportunity to raise concerns about the number of school aged children. The families had argued that the Home Secretary was required to make more substantive enquiries to ensure against further disruption in the lives and education of the children before taking the decision to take them out of their schools and relocate them hundreds of miles away, without any measures in place to ensure continuity.

This means the families will continue to live in hotels, causing huge disruption to their lives, and where some of the children remain out of education. It also leaves thousands of other Afghan evacuees at risk of being moved hundreds of miles at short notice.

Lawyers representing the families from Public Law Project, Shelter and Deighton Pierce Glynn said:

“The families are devastated by today’s result. They have already been forced to leave their home country to flee extreme violence and threats to their lives, and now they’ve been ripped away from the new lives they had started to build in London too. With children forced to give up school places and their parents' employment affected, today's judgment means these families remain stuck in hotels in a new city, hurling them right back to square one.

“These are four families from the group of over 15,000 Afghans who were invited to come to the UK in 2021 by the British Government as part of Operation Pitting, many owing to their work with the British forces in Afghanistan. The government made a commitment to find them settled, safe accommodation – in this it is failing catastrophically.

“A hotel room is not a safe home. It is well known that living in a cramped hotel room for long periods and being moved around constantly is hugely detrimental to children’s health, education and wellbeing. Thousands of Afghan refugees are stuck in hotels experiencing the same trauma. If they are to have any hope of rebuilding their lives, the Home Office must protect families from being repeatedly uprooted, and remove the barriers preventing them from finding a settled home.” 

The families will not be appealing the decision.


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