Published: 24th March 2023 Afghan families remain trapped in remote hotels following today’s High Court ruling that the Home Secretary did not act unlawfully by moving them from a London hotel to hotels in a city in the north of England. The move significantly disrupted the children’s education and adults’ employment. Following the judgment, the families remain in temporary accommodation and at risk of further moves, as the Home Office has failed to secure the settled accommodation it promised. The families have been stuck in hotels for over one and a half years since being evacuated from Afghanistan in August 2021. On 17 January 2023, the High Court in London heard how the unexpected move to a hotel on the outskirts of a northern city resulted in the risk to employment, training opportunities, school places, access to specialist psychological support and the support networks the families had built in London. Among the families were teenage girls who were preparing to take GCSE exams and have had their education severely disrupted by the move. They have faced long delays in obtaining school places. Some have been offered places up to two hours journey away from the families’ accommodation. Lawyers representing the families from Public Law Project, Shelter and Deighton Pierce Glynn argued that the Home Secretary had a duty to consider the best interests of the children and had failed to make adequate enquiries of the families’ circumstances before relocating them. The families argued that she had unlawfully failed to ensure there would be school places available for their children. The families were evacuated from Afghanistan in 2021 as part of Operation Pitting and the government’s Operation Warm Welcome promised to ensure “Afghans arriving in the UK receive the vital support they need to rebuild their lives, find work, pursue education, and integrate into their local communities.” Among the families is a former soldier who fought alongside British and American forces against the Taliban. The High Court ruled that the Home Secretary did not owe a duty to ‘safeguard and promote’ the best interests of the children affected by the moves, as she was not exercising an ‘immigration function’. The High Court further ruled that even if she had owed such a duty, it was sufficient that she had given the Local Authority an opportunity to raise concerns about the number of school aged children. The families had argued that the Home Secretary was required to make more substantive enquiries to ensure against further disruption in the lives and education of the children before taking the decision to take them out of their schools and relocate them hundreds of miles away, without any measures in place to ensure continuity. This means the families will continue to live in hotels, causing huge disruption to their lives, and where some of the children remain out of education. It also leaves thousands of other Afghan evacuees at risk of being moved hundreds of miles at short notice. Lawyers representing the families from Public Law Project, Shelter and Deighton Pierce Glynn said: “The families are devastated by today’s result. They have already been forced to leave their home country to flee extreme violence and threats to their lives, and now they’ve been ripped away from the new lives they had started to build in London too. With children forced to give up school places and their parents’ employment affected, today’s judgment means these families remain stuck in hotels in a new city, hurling them right back to square one.“These are four families from the group of over 15,000 Afghans who were invited to come to the UK in 2021 by the British Government as part of Operation Pitting, many owing to their work with the British forces in Afghanistan. The government made a commitment to find them settled, safe accommodation – in this it is failing catastrophically. “A hotel room is not a safe home. It is well known that living in a cramped hotel room for long periods and being moved around constantly is hugely detrimental to children’s health, education and wellbeing. Thousands of Afghan refugees are stuck in hotels experiencing the same trauma. If they are to have any hope of rebuilding their lives, the Home Office must protect families from being repeatedly uprooted, and remove the barriers preventing them from finding a settled home.” The families will not be appealing the decision. ENDS Notes to editors Contact: Alice Smith, Senior Communications Officer, Public Law Project Lawyers in the case are Daniel Rourke, Public Law Project; Jo Underwood and Sophie Earnshaw, Shelter; and Polly Glynn, Deighton Pierce Glynn. Counsel are Martin Westgate KC, Adam Straw KC, Doughty Street Chambers; Tessa Buchanan, Raza Halim, Oliver Persey, and Alex Schymyck, Garden Court Chambers. There is a Court order prohibiting publication of any information liable to identify the Claimants in the judicial review proceedings or their family members in the UK or overseas. A copy of the order is available on request. The Claimants in the legal proceedings were evacuated during UK military ‘Operation Pitting’ during the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in August 2021. During the operation, around 15,000 people were airlifted from the Afghan capital – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/defence-secretary-presents-operation-pitting-medals-to-personnel The government described people whom it had ‘called forward’ for evacuation as ‘the Afghans who stood side by side with us in conflict, their families and those at highest risk’. The government committed to providing resettlement support with then prime minister Boris Johnson stating ‘We will never forget the brave sacrifice made by Afghans who chose to work with us, at great risk to themselves. We owe them, and their families, a huge debt.’ https://www.gov.uk/government/news/operation-warm-welcome The government has committed to a package of integration support which, in principle, includes £20,050 per person of support to local authorities over a three year period. The relevant funding instruction expressly provides that this money can be spent on accommodation and additional support is available to help larger families who may be impacted by the benefit cap or low rates of ‘local housing allowance’. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/afghan-relocation-and-assistance-funding-instruction A separate funding instruction applies to local authorities that are only providing ‘wraparound’ support to people in the scheme who are living in temporary bridging hotel accommodation. This support equates to £28 per person per day. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/afghan-relocation-and-assistance-funding-instruction/funding-instruction-for-local-authorities-in-the-support-of-the-united-kingdoms-afghan-schemes-hotel-wraparound-support-accessible The ongoing cost of providing temporary hotel accommodation to people in temporary bridging hotel accommodation has been estimated by the Government to be around £1 million per day – https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2022-07-18/38651. The government has committed to publishing quarterly ‘operational data’ on the Afghan Resettlement Programme. The latest information was published 23 February 2023 and can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/afghan-resettlement-programme-operational-data/afghan-resettlement-programme-operational-data. Public Law Project is an independent national legal charity which represents and supports individuals and communities who are marginalised through poverty, discrimination, or disadvantage when they have been affected by unlawful state decision-making. Their vision is a world where the state acts fairly and lawfully, and mission is to improve public decision making, empower people to understand and apply the law, and increase access to justice. Shelter exists to defend the right to a safe home and fight the devastating impact the housing emergency has on people and society. Shelter believes that home is everything. Learn more at www.shelter.org.uk. Deighton Pierce Glynn is a leading civil rights and judicial review law firm.