The claimants in this joined action were asylum-seekers who had sought asylum after their initial entry to the UK. The defendant, Secretary of State for the Home Department, refused support under Section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration, and Asylum Act 2002 ("the Act") with regard to accommodation. Section 55 allowed refusal of support to asylum seekers who failed to make their claim as soon as reasonably practicable. However, Section 55(5) of the Act created an exception by providing that support should be provided if failure to do so would result in violating the asylum seeker's human rights. Several judges awarded Mr. Adam, Mr. Limbuela and other claimants interim relief for the case duration, and the issue was subsequently adjudicated by the Court of Appeal and by the House of Lords.
The Law Lords applied the standard set out in Pretty v. United Kingdom  35 EHRR 1 to determine whether the refusal of support would rise to a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights 1950, which prohibits torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of individuals. The court noted that asylum seekers were prevented from working while their application was being processed, and concluded that a failure to provide support would therefore expose the claimants to the risk of being homeless or without access to adequate food, creating an Article 3 violation. The Law Lords granted relief under §55 (5) of the Act.
Keywords: R. (Adam and Limbuela) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, Food, Health, Housing, Refugee, Asylum, Seekers, Displaced, Person, Right
Asylum seekers who apply late may now receive support under Section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration, and Asylum Act 2002 if they can demonstrate that failure to provide support would expose them to a real risk of destitution. The decision in Adam has therefore ensured that many asylum seekers receive support that they would not otherwise have received.
The significance of this case lies in the recognition by the UK House of Lords that a failure by the state to provide social support which exposes an individual to a real risk of becoming destitute will in certain circumstances constitute ‘inhuman and degrading treatment', and therefore will be contrary to Article 3 of the ECHR. It is an interesting example of how a civil and political right can be used as the basis to bring a claim to enforce socio-economic rights.