Public Interest Law Centre

public law | human rights | legal action

26Jun 2024

Home Office Policy of Refusing to Determine Thousands of EUSS Applications for Leave to Remain by EU citizens/EEA nationals Found to Be Unlawful. 

26th June 2024|

The Home Office must consider the individual circumstances of EU citizens/EEA nationals before delaying determination of their EUSS applications pending criminal prosecutions. 

The Upper Tribunal found the Home Office’s policy that delayed the processing of the vast majority of applications for EUSS Settled and Pre-settled Status made by EU citizens/EEA nationals who had pending prosecutions following criminal charges to be unlawful. 

The judgment will apply to almost 20,000 EU citizens/EEA nationals who had their applications for settled status paused. 

The Background  

Our client is an EU citizen who has lived in the UK for almost 20 years. When Brexit came into effect, he had to apply for Settled Status under the EU Settled Status (EUSS) scheme. 

Yet while he waited, pending criminal charges lead to his EUSS application being ‘paused’ so that he was blocked from accessing his essential rights under the UK’s EU Withdrawal Agreement.

The likely penalty for his criminal charge was minor. On conviction and sentencing, it could never have led to his Settled Status application to be lawfully refused under applicable Withdrawal Agreement standards.

Time and time again his paused application meant that he couldn’t get the support for which he was eligible. This included housing assistance and universal credit. Without legal representation, there was a strong chance he could have become homeless.  

[Read more about the case here

The Judgment 

The Upper Tribunal found that: 

  • The Home Office’s policy to pause EUSS applications because of pending prosecutions has been unlawfully directing Home Office caseworkers in their decision making  
  • The policy has breached the EU law rights of those subject to it  
  • There is a cohort of EU citizens/EEA nationals, like our client, who have had their application paused under this policy but could never have had their application refused on consideration of the criminal penalty following conviction on their pending criminal charge 
  • In order to act lawfully, Home Office decision-makers must consider an applicant’s length of residence, the applicable Withdrawal Agreement standard of protection, and whether a delay is proportionate before deciding to pause an EUSS application  
  • The unlawful policy has robbed deserving EU citizens/EEA nationals of ‘security of mind and confidence in future planning’. 

Fighting For Migrant’s Rights 

PILC solicitor, Ellen Fotheringham, worked on this case. She said “The criminal charges that the many people in this situation face are highly unlikely to result in a custodial sentence or deportation. Many have lived in the UK for many years, and qualify for Settled Status. They have faced great uncertainty and have been subjected to the hostile environment for no good reason. This is a clear breach of the promise to EU citizens/ EEA nationals living in the UK that their rights would not be impacted by Brexit. 

If he hadn’t had legal representation our client  would have been destitute and homeless. We’re glad that thousands of others in the same position will now have their applications individually assessed so that they can move on with their lives.”  

The barristers were Adrian Berry of Garden Court Chambers and Jamie Burton KC of Doughty Street Chambers.

We want to thank all the people from Praxis, RAMFEL and The 3 Million who worked with us on this case.


Accessing legal representation is essential. For this case, the judicial review was refused twice. We had to appeal in the court of appeal. Every stage has suffered delays.

That’s why this year, we walked the London Legal Walk to raise awareness of how cuts to legal aid are affecting real people. We’re raising money for PILC’s fighting fund, so that we can put the power of the law into more movements and communities.

If you are able to, please consider donating what you can afford and help us raise £2,000 to help support PILC’s vital work.

19Jan 2024

The UK government’s ban on an organisation that doesn’t exist has devastating impact on Tamil refugees

19th January 2024|

Background

On May 19th, 2009, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) announced that it had silenced its guns. Since then, it has ceased its armed activities. Yet the UK government has refused to take this now non-existent organisation off the proscribed terrorism list not once but twice – and it’s having devastating consequences for Tamil people worldwide.

Impact on the Tamil community

Tamil people in the UK have been severely affected by the proscription of the LTTE simply because they share the ethnicity or the non-violent political aspiration of the right to self-determination of the Tamil people.

Keeping the LTTE on the proscribed list of organisations in the western world contributes to the subjugation of the Tamils in the form of torture, sexual violence, enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrest and detention – all under the guise of “countering terrorism”. Tamils struggle to even fly their flags without being named terrorists.

The legal case

Now, PILC is bringing a case on behalf of members of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) to appeal against the Home Secretary’s decision to keep LTTE on the list of proscribed organisations. They’ve been prevented from displaying national symbols (e.g. flags) as they’re are often mistaken for LTTE symbols. This leads to questioning by the police and wrongful arrests of peaceful demonstrators.

Disproportionate interference by the Police has been raised in Parliament for over a decade and they have produced a wider chilling effect on community organising amongst Tamil people. We cannot let minority groups such as the TGTE be silenced.

PILC is bringing the case on the following grounds:

  1. The decision is unlawful as the LTTE is no longer an ‘organisation’ capable of being subject to proscription
  2. The decision is unlawful as there is insufficient evidence to form a reasonable belief that the LTTE is concerned in terrorism
  3. The Home Secretary’s exercise of her discretion to maintain proscription was irrational
  4. The decision is unlawful as it constitutes a disproportionate interference with our clients’ rights of Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly (under Article 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights).

How to support this case

Protecting the Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly is a core part of PILC’s work. This fundamental pillar of a just and democratic society must be protected at all costs.

To ensure that our legal team has the funds it requires to put the best case forward to the Commission and overturn this unjust ban, we need to raise £10,000 by March. Find out more details of this case and how to support it here.

14Oct 2022

PILC launches rights guide for migrant rough sleepers

14th October 2022|

Photo: Global Justice Now

PILC has today published a know-your rights guide to deportations, international ‘reconnections’ and voluntary returns for homeless non UK-nationals and those supporting them.

Non-UK nationals are at increased risk of homelessness, including rough sleeping. Some may think they have no option to leave the UK—even if they want to stay. In the past, some councils and charities worked with the Home Office to force or persuade homeless people to leave the UK.

Our new guide is intended to help homeless non-UK nationals assert their right to remain.

The guide is available online, with versions in English, Polish and Romanian. We also have a limited number of printed copies to give away to organisations and groups supporting homeless non-UK nationals. 

Please contact benjamin.morgan@pilc.org.uk for more information or to request hard copies of the guide.

22Sep 2022

PILC domestic abuse report and campaign launched 

22nd September 2022|

Image: Nicobobinus – licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Tonight sees the launch of our new report and campaign around the systemic ‘gatekeeping’ by local authorities of housing support for domestic abuse survivors.

Housing is one of the major barriers facing women and girls fleeing abuse. Most domestic abuse survivors have the legal right to access emergency housing and longer-term safe and secure accommodation.

Yet systemic ‘gatekeeping’ (the placing of bureaucratic or other obstacles in the way of those seeking statutory support) across local councils means many survivors are unable to access the help they so desperately need. 

Our report, authored by PILC’s Isabella Mulholland, is based on original research, including casework and litigation undertaken by the law centre over the past three years, as well as witness testimonies from survivors and frontline domestic violence advocates across all thirty-two London boroughs.

PILC has written a legal submission to Simon Clark MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Levelling Up, and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, highlighting the findings of the research.

The letter calls on the Secretary of State and the Mayor to commission an independent investigation into local authorities’ widespread failure to provide housing support to domestic abuse survivors.

As our research shows, the systemic ‘gatekeeping’ of housing support for victims of domestic abuse is placing survivors at risk of further abuse and retraumatisation.

Key findings from our report include the following:

  • The ‘gatekeeping’ of housing support for domestic abuse survivors is a systemic issue across London local authorities
  • ‘Gatekeeping’ by councils takes a variety of forms, including: long (and sometimes unlawful) delays in making decisions around housing for survivors; unsuitable offers of temporary and long-term accommodation; the failure to provide emergency accommodation to survivors and their children; the imposition of unlawfully high evidence thresholds before support is provided; failure to apply the statutory definition of domestic abuse; the application of value judgements by housing officers; survivors being wrongly instructed to stay in or leave their borough; and the refusal of support until there is a threat of legal action
  • Council ‘gatekeeping’ is having a serious impact on survivors, with some being forced to remain in properties where they are at risk or having no option but to return to the perpetrator of domestic abuse
  • ‘Gatekeeping’ across London local authorities has worsened over the last decade as a consequence of austerity and a chronic shortage of social housing

The full report can be downloaded here.


25May 2022

New PILC/JCWI report on migrants in Covid-19

25th May 2022|

PILC and JCWI have today published a joint report on migrants’ experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report, entitled Unequal Impacts: How UK immigration law and policy affected migrants’ experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic, explores how UK law and government decision-making have exacerbated the impact of Covid-19 on migrants, particularly those with insecure immigration status.

The report’s areas of focus are access to justice, Home Office applications, state support, healthcare, and the asylum accommodation system, as well as immigration enforcement. Across all these areas, we highlight how the government’s anti-migrant approach has exposed migrants to increased risk from Covid-19, undermined public health efforts and introduced greater dysfunctionality into an already-broken immigration system.

The report’s authors, Ellen Fotheringham and Caitlin Boswell, urge the prime minister to ensure that the Covid-19 Inquiry examines how flaws in the immigration system have put migrants’ lives at risk during the pandemic.

The report can be downloaded here.

A full press release is here.

5May 2022

Southwark overcrowding case in court today

5th May 2022|

On Thursday 5th May we are in court for the hearing in our client’s judicial review challenge to Southwark council’s housing allocations policy.

Our client, Milton, lives with his wife, son and daughter in a privately rented studio apartment in Southwark. They are severely overcrowded and have endured extremely cramped housing conditions for almost five years. The family applied to join Southwark’s housing register in April 2018. However, Southwark has refused to prioritise the family’s application for housing. The council claims that the family’s overcrowding is the result of a ‘deliberate act’.

However, Milton and his family had no choice but to move into their current accommodation.  As Milton explains with the help of his daughter Rebecca: ‘I had to move to this flat. When we looked at other places the agencies asked us for many months’ rent in advance. I couldn’t rent a bigger house because it was too expensive.’

As Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) have highlighted this week, Southwark council have spent a large amount of money and resources defending this case – money that could have been spent on tackling exploitative landlords and supporting Southwark residents. HASL are running an email campaign demanding that Southwark remove the ‘deliberate act’ provision and stop blaming families for their poor living conditions.

We will provide a legal update on the outcome of this case over the next few weeks.

6Jul 2021

Student support case in court today

6th July 2021|

Today and tomorrow we are in the High Court for a two-day hearing on a judicial-review challenge to the Education (Student Support) Regulations 2011. The case raises the question of the right to state support that accompanies the right of residence derivative of the exercise of freedom of movement rights by a British citizen and their family.

Our client is a Zimbabwean national married to a British citizen. She was refused maintenance support for her degree studies because of her immigration status.

At the time she was refused maintenance support our client was exercising Surinder Singh rights. These rights allow a British citizen who has lived in an European Economic Area (EEA) country exercising EEA rights of residence to bring qualifying family members back to the UK to live here.

Student maintenance support is generally available to the family members of EEA nationals who have exercised free movement rights. However, the Student Loan Company refused to award our client maintenance support for her degree because her husband is a British citizen. This happened because the definition of an EEA migrant worker in the relevant regulations excluded EEA nationals who were British citizens.

Being refused a maintenance loan has caused our client and her family considerable stress and financial hardship. She is arguing that the regulations that excluded her are a breach of her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and contrary to the principle of equal treatment and non-discrimination in EU Law.

PILC’s Helen Mowatt is the solicitor in the case. Counsel are Adrian Berry of Garden Court Chambers and David Lawson of Serjeants’ Inn.

We will provide a further update once there is a judgment in the case.

1Jul 2021

PILC launches EU homeless rights report

1st July 2021|

UPDATE (12/07/21): The full recording of our online launch event for this report is now available, with speakers including: Mihai Calin Bica from Roma Support Group; Polina Manolova from the University of Tübingen; PILC’s research and communications coordinator Benjamin Morgan; and Agnieszka Radziwinowiczówna from the University of Warsaw.

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On Jul 1 2021 PILC published a research report on the key rights and social-justice issues faced by homeless and otherwise marginalised EU citizens living in the UK. The report, entitled Still Here: Defending the rights of homeless EU citizens after Brexit and Covid-19, is based on research, casework and litigation undertaken through our EU homeless rights project (2018-21).

Our report finds that EU citizens living in the UK experienced large-scale destitution and rights violations well before Brexit. Homeless EU citizens were especially at risk of not having their rights upheld by statutory agencies, while the legal exclusion or ‘differential inclusion’ of EU citizens with respect to social assistance was a major cause of destitution, including rough sleeping.

We identify three overlapping groups of EU citizens who were particularly exposed to poverty, hyper exploitation and rights violations before Brexit : working-class EU citizens from the ‘A8’ and ‘A2’ countries of Central and Eastern Europe; EU citizens or qualifying non-EU family members who may identify or be racialised as non-white; and survivors of domestic abuse.

Our advocacy report proceeds via an analysis of six key rights areas (access to housing; support for domestic-abuse survivors; access to welfare benefits; employment rights; access to NHS care; and access to community care), illustrated with examples from PILC’s casework and litigation.

We then discuss issues relating to EU citizens’ right to remain after Brexit, showing that the UK’s departure from the EU is likely to exacerbate the rights issues faced by marginalised Europeans. This section of our report looks at current and historic policies aimed at deporting homeless EU citizens and the shortcomings of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). We also analyse the experiences of destitute EU citizens during Covid-19, an issue first covered in detail in a 2020 report co-authored by PILC.

The final section of the report examines the homelessness sector’s work with EU citizens. We argue that the sector in the shape of local authorities and commissioned services is failing marginalised Europeans, and non-UK nationals more broadly. We suggest that a culture change is urgently needed, and that the sector must assert the right to shelter, welfare assistance and to remain of all EU citizens in the UK.

28Jun 2021

Rough sleeping rule challenge: update

28th June 2021|

On 1 December 2020 the government amended the Immigration Rules to make rough sleeping a ground for cancelling or refusing permission to stay in the UK.

On 2 December 2020 PILC, instructed by the Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (RAMFEL), formally wrote to the Secretary of State for the Home Department (SSHD) to request that the new rough sleeping rule be repealed. We argued that the rule was unlawful, disproportionate, discriminatory and violated the UK’s international obligations in respect of victims of trafficking. PILC also sent the SSHD a detailed report evidencing the potential effect of the new rule on non-UK nationals sleeping rough.

On 6 April 2021 the rough sleeping rule was amended so that permission may only be refused or cancelled where a rough sleeper has also:

  • repeatedly refused suitable offers of support; and
  • engaged in persistent anti-social behaviour (ASB)

On 20 April 2021 the Home Office published guidance on the interpretation of the rough sleeping rule. This guidance significantly limits the scope of the rule.

There is little doubt that these changes have come about as a direct result of our legal action and strong opposition from the voluntary sector, local authorities and trade unions.

In light of the recent changes to the rough sleeping rule, we have updated our factsheet for homeless non-UK nationals and those supporting them.

What does this mean for PILC’s legal challenge?

Although the latest guidance appears to have significantly limited the scope of the rough sleeping rule, a number of concerns remain:

  1. The rule may result in people who find it hard to engage with services as a result of mental health difficulties, lack of mental capacity or substance-misuse issues being targeted for immigration enforcement. The behaviour of such individuals may be interpreted as ‘anti-social behaviour’.
  2. The rule presents a significant risk to Roma people whose needs have historically not been met by support services and who have been disproportionately targeted for local-authority and immigration enforcement in recent years.
  3. The ‘available support’ listed in the Home Office guidance is largely applicable to non-UK nationals with recourse to public funds. Little effective support to leave the streets is available to the group most likely to be affected by the rule: non-UK national rough sleepers with no recourse to public funds (NRPF).
  4. We are concerned that the rule may be used coercively, with rough sleepers being offered ‘voluntary’ return and threatened with deportation if they refuse. It remains unclear who will decide whether ‘voluntary return’ is a ‘suitable’ support option. Although the Home Office guidance suggests ‘voluntary return’ as an option for those ‘who want to go home’, ‘voluntary return’ (or ‘reconnection’) has historically been offered to rough sleepers as a ‘single service offer’.
  5. Anti-social behaviour powers raise significant issues around proportionality, due process and accountability. Rough sleepers are commonly targeted by ASB enforcement measures—often just for rough sleeping. The evidence threshold for the issuing of Community Protection Notices (CPNs) is significantly lower than for older ASB orders.
  6. The rough sleeping rule lends itself to misuse or abuse by empowering individual local authorities to advise Immigration Enforcement around support available/refused and target individuals/groups with ASB orders or notices.

We remain committed to:

  • Pressuring the government to scrap the rough sleeping rule altogether.
  • Monitoring how the rule is being implemented on the ground and challenging the government in cases where it is being abused or misapplied

We will continue to provide updates about our legal challenge in this area.

What can I do?

If you or someone you know is affected by the rule, or if you believe the local authority in which you live or work may be planning to co-operate with the rough sleeping rule, please contact office@pilc.org.uk

You can also support one or both of two active campaigns opposing the rough sleeping rule: