Al-Ameri v Royal London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea [2004] UKHL 4

Accommodation – asylum-seeker – NASS – choice – housing

A, a destitute asylum-seeker, was provided with accommodation in Glasgow by NASS under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Subsequently, A was granted exceptional leave to remain and, consequently, ceased to be entitled to accommodation provided by NASS but became entitled to apply for assistance under the Housing Act 1996. He applied to Kensington and Chelsea local authority for assistance. The authority found that A was homeless, eligible for assistance, in priority need and not intentionally homeless. It considered, however, that the conditions for referring A to Glasgow City Council under s198(1) of the 1996 Act were met.

Section 198(2) Housing Act 1996 allows an authority to refer an applicant to another authority where three conditions are met: (a) neither the applicant nor any person who might reasonably be expected to reside with him has a local connection with the authority’s district; (b) the applicant or a person who might reasonably be expected to reside with him has a local connection with the district of the other authority; and, (c) neither the applicant nor any person who might reasonably be expected to reside with him will run the risk of domestic violence in that other district. Local connection is defined in s199(1). By s199(1)(a), ‘a person has a local connection with a district if he is, or in the past was, normally resident there, and that residence is or was of his own choice’.

A appealed to the County Court on the ground that he did not have a local connection with Glasgow. His appeal was dismissed and he appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The appeal was allowed. The majority of the Court was persuaded that asylum-seekers had no choice as to where they resided; rather, the location of their accommodation was at the Secretary of State’s direction. The asylum-seeker’s only choice was between going where he was directed by the NASS dispersal scheme and a life of destitution. That could not constitute choice for the purposes of s199(1)(a).

An appeal to the House of Lords was dismissed. The Lords agreed that the asylum seeker’s residence in Glasgow in accommodation provided to them because they were destitute under the 1999 Act was not residence of their own choice within s199 of the 1996 Act. The correct interpretation of the 1996 Act and consideration of the wider context compelled that conclusion. A destitute asylum seeker had no choice as to the locality in which support under s95 of the 1999 Act was to be provided to him.

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