HL Deb 16 July 1997 vol 581 c113WA
Earl Russell

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the legal obligations local authorities have towards the funding and support of asylum seekers.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

A judgment given in the High Court on 8 October 1996 (Regina v City of Westminster and others, ex parte A, P, M & X) held that asylum seekers who are excluded from receiving social security benefits and housing under the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 may be eligible for residential accommodation under Section 21 of the National Assistance Act 1948. This judgment was upheld by the Court of Appeal in February 1997. Local authorities have no power or duty to provide food to asylum seekers for whom they are not providing residential accommodation (Regina v London Borough of Newham ex parte Gorenkin) or to provide money for the purchase of food or other items to people for whom they are providing residential accommodation (Regina v Secretary of State for Health ex parte London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, K, A & M, 9 July 1997).

There are no special provisions for the children of asylum seekers in the Children Act 1989. If they are "in need" within the meaning of Section 17 of the Act, their local authority will be obliged to provide services under Part III of the Act, with a view to safeguarding and promoting their welfare. The obligation on the local authority in this respect is the same as for any other child in need.

The definition of a child in need is set out in Section 17(10) and, if an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child falls within that definition, authorities have the same duties to provide services for that child, which may include the provision of accommodation, as for any other in their area who may be in need.