SECTION 55 OF THE NATIONALITY, IMMIGRATION AND
ASYLUM ACT 2002
A young Somali woman was denied subsistence-only support under Section 55. The reasons were very trivial - such as getting the date of entry into the UK slightly wrong. Inter-Agency Partnership
88. Section 55 of the 2002 Act came into effect in January 2003
and provides that asylum support under sections 4, 95 and 98 of
the 1999 Act can be denied if the Secretary of State is not satisfied
that the asylum claim was made as soon as reasonably practicable
after the person's arrival in the UK. Section 55 does not prevent
support being provided to those with dependent children or with
particular care needs. The Home Office told us that its initial
presumption was that prospective asylum claimants should apply
immediately on arrival at their port of entry unless there were
good reasons for not doing so, but that this policy was refined
with effect from 17 December 2003. From that date it was accepted
that an asylum seeker who arrived within the previous three days
and had no opportunity to claim asylum within that time would
be treated as having claimed as soon as reasonably practicable.
89. Our predecessor Committee expressed its concerns about the
section 55 provisions
and concluded that there was a significant risk that they would
lead to a violation of the rights to an adequate standard of living,
to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment,
and to respect for private life.
IAP told us that "throughout 2003, 64 per cent of asylum
seekers referred for a section 55 decision were denied support.
This amounted to 9,415 individual asylum seekers who received
no form of government support whatsoever". 
By October 2003, section 55 cases amounted to a quarter of all
the judicial review cases lodged in the High Court and 800 cases
were being processed.
Following a series of court cases, the House of Lords was asked
to consider the effect of section 55 in the case of Limbuela.
The court heard evidence that there was insufficient charitable
help to meet the needs of a growing number of destitute asylum
seekers. In the leading judgment, Lord Bingham said:
"A general public duty to house the homeless or provide
for the destitute cannot be spelled out of Article 3. But I have
no doubt that the threshold may be crossed if a late applicant
with no means and no alternative sources of support, unable to
support himself, is, by the deliberate action of the state, denied
shelter, food or the most basic necessities of life
90. It is clear from the judgment that where an asylum seeker
has insufficient access to shelter, food or washing facilities,
then the Article 3 threshold could be reached. The Home Office
stated that since the Limbuela judgment, it does not refuse
support under section 55 to anyone who does not have some alternative
source of support available, including overnight shelter, adequate
food and basic amenities. 
It added that since a person falls to be refused under section
55 only if he could reasonably have been expected to claim asylum
earlier than he did, it follows that any person who has acted
reasonably will not be denied support.
91. Witnesses told us that while support is being provided to
homeless applicants, section 55 provisions are being used to refuse
cash-only support claims from applicants with accommodation (such
as staying with friends).
The Minister confirmed to us that section 55 was being used in
subsistence-only cases. 
IAP acknowledges that while the Limbuela judgment addressed
many of its concerns, it considers that "the continued application
of section 55 for subsistence-only claims potentially breaches
an applicant's rights under both ECHR Article 3 and ICESCR Articles
9 and 11".
Home Office published statistics indicated that whilst there has
been a considerable reduction in the number of asylum seekers
refused support under section 55, there were still 895 people
who were refused support under section 55 during 2006.
92. The continued use of the section 55 provision to deny support
in subsistence-only cases leaves many asylum seekers reliant on
ad hoc charitable support and with no regular means of providing
for their basic daily necessities. We believe that this treatment
does not comply with the House of Lords Limbuela judgment, and
is in clear breach of Article 3 ECHR. We recommend that section
55 be repealed.
SECTION 9 OF THE ASYLUM AND IMMIGRATION (TREATMENT
OF CLAIMANTS ETC) ACT 2004