High Court rules Home Secretary’s policy of accommodating Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children in hotels unlawful

Today Mr Justice Chamberlain has handed down judgment in the judicial review brought by the council against the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Suella Braverman (Home Secretary) challenging her policy of accommodating unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in hotels on a systemic and routine basis.

The High Court has ruled that from December 2021 this practice was systemic and routine and from that point on was unlawful, exceeding the proper limits of the Home Secretary’s powers. 

The High Court further ruled that the National Transfer Scheme – the alternative statutory scheme that allows children to be placed in local authority care through a rota system – which includes the power for the Home Secretary to direct a local authority to comply with the Scheme is enforceable by the Home Secretary by judicial review. 

The Home Secretary therefore could have taken steps to enforce that direction against local authorities who were not accommodating their quota of children.

The Home Secretary’s common law power to accommodate children in hotels may only be used in very short periods in truly emergency situations, it cannot be systematically or routinely used as a substitute for local authority care. 

Commenting on the judgment, Leader of the Council, Councillor Bella Sankey said: “I welcome this landmark ruling that the Home Secretary’s policy of placing unaccompanied children in hotels for the past 18 months has been unlawful.

“As a result of this policy, a dozen classrooms of children – including some of the most traumatised and vulnerable children in the world - have gone missing and, sickeningly for us, 50 children are still missing from the hotel used in Brighton and Hove. 

“Importantly the High Court also makes clear that the Home Secretary already has the power to require local authorities across the country to take children into foster care via a statutory rota system called the National Transfer Scheme. 

“Suella Braverman must now urgently enforce this system so that the hotels can be emptied and all local authorities can play their part in safeguarding children. 

“I’m proud that Brighton and Hove City Council has brought this ground-breaking legal case to hold the Home Office to account and ensure that all children in need of care can in future be properly safeguarded, irrespective of their nationality and immigration status.”