Asylum seeker gains Lords appeal plea

Roger Pearson reports on a Libyan man's ongoing battle to seek asylum and rights to social security benefits in the UK.

The rights of asylum seekers to social security are to come under House of Lords scrutiny in a pending appeal involving a Libyan man.

Fathi Saleh Salem arrived at Heathrow on 17 April 1997 and then claimed asylum.

On the basis of the account he gave authorities on his arrival he was granted temporary admission and immediately claimed social security benefits as an asylum seeker.

After hearing nothing of him by 27 July 1997 the authorities called on him for an interview.

It was at this juncture that his solicitors prepared representations which included a statement from Salem admitting that he had not told the truth at his first interview. The statement also included other facts supporting his asylum application.

Salem's temporary admission was extended as a result, but in September he was informed that the Home Office had in fact rejected his claim for asylum in May and that his benefits would cease.

The High Court refused Salem leave to apply for judicial review but he then applied to the Court of Appeal. His challenge raised the question of his continuing status as an asylum seeker for the purpose of receiving benefits.

The Court of Appeal dismissed his application by a majority decision. It said that the Home Secretary had rejected Salem's application for asylum on 7 May and that from that date he ceased to be an asylum seeker and ceased to be entitled to benefits.

The fact that reasons for refusal were not drafted until July did not mean that his claim was not decided until then. The court said that after the May decision, the Home Secretary had, in recognition of his duty to observe the Geneva Convention, gone on to consider Salem's further representations, but this did not alter the situation.

It took the view that Salem had been lucky in that he had effectively received four months' benefit that he was not entitled to because of the aforementioned course of events.

Now leave has been granted for Salem to take his challenge to the Law Lords. That challenge will centre on the provisions of regulation 70 (3A) (b) of the Income Support (General) Regulations 1987.