The Home Office is to cancel plans to evict approximately 4,000 migrants during the pandemic, following a legal challenge of the government’s consultation with Public Health England (PHE) over concerns that the impact that the eviction policy would lead to a spread of COVID-19 and disproportionately impact people of colour. The claimants’ lawyers argue that ministers ‘sidelined’ expert health advice in favour of their own assessment.
In October 2020, working with @_A_S_A_P, @gmlawcentre persuaded the Principal Judge of the Asylum Support Tribunal these evictions threaten everyone’s public health – winning a “landmark” decision that all judges have followed since. +
— Simon Cox (@SimonFRCox) May 25, 2021
The Guardian reported that, during the course of the High Court hearing, a witness statement from a Home Official revealed that the department ‘did not consider what power, or whether we had the power, to implement what we saw as administrative changes’. ‘This was a response to the urgency of events and the immediate concern about keeping people in the same accommodation,’ it said.
The claimant’s barrister Simon Cox, from Doughty Street, tweeted that ‘the evidence disclosed and read out in open court… shows how the Home Office sidelined expert public health advice in favour of an “assessment” of risk to public health created by politicians and immigration officials.’
‘The country and the rest of government has been undergoing the greatest upheaval since WW2 to Stay Home – Protect the NHS – Save Lives. But immigration ministers have been desperate to deny destitute people a bed, so they wouldn’t stay safe – endangering all of us.’
The court heard the PHE’s view, in contrast to the Home Office’s stance, was that they could not advise that anyone ‘should be enabled to become homeless from a public health perspective.’ It was reported that the eviction policy may resume when England reaches ‘step 4’ in the lockdown road map, however the government is yet to confirm this.
The claimants’ solicitors, Kathleen Cosgrove, of Greater Manchester Law Centre, and Sasha Rozansky and Will Russell, of Deighton Pierce Glynn said that their clients challenged the home secretary’s policy to evict thousands of migrants during the pandemic on the basis that ‘she failed to take into account the public health impacts this would have, in particular on disabled people and black and brown citizens’’