Asylum Seekers and Strategic Litigation

  • Frances Webber
Part of the Transnational Crime, Crime Control and Security book series (TCCCS)


Asylum seekers and migrants and their support organizations in the UK have become increasingly involved in strategic litigation as a complement to direct action and political campaigning, to defend and secure basic rights. The test cases are important in themselves, challenging policies which violate fundamental rights in various ways, including through enforced destitution, detention of torture and trafficking survivors, long-term detention of mentally ill migrants, and forced removal to danger. They also ensure that the voices of asylum seekers and migrants are heard, and can instil confidence and a sense of agency among asylum seekers and migrants. But strategic litigation cannot replace political campaigning; without a popular movement, the gains of test cases are vulnerable to reversal through further litigation or legislation, and the British Government has also acted to restrict the possibilities of intervention for asylum seekers, migrants and their support organizations.


  1. Asylum policy sparks protests. BBC News, 30 January 2004.
  2. Athwal, H., & Bourne, J. (2015). Dying for justice. London: IRR.Google Scholar
  3. Birnberg Peirce & Partners, Medical Justice and the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns. (2008). Outsourcing abuse: The use of state-sponsored force during detention and deportation.Google Scholar
  4. Blunkett, D. Debate on the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, Hansard HC 24.4.2002 col. 353.Google Scholar
  5. Campaign Against Racism and Fascism/Southall Rights. (1981). Southall: The birth of a black community. London: Institute of Race Relations and Southall Rights.Google Scholar
  6. Child asylum seekers win compensation for 13-month detention. Guardian, 6 January 2012.
  7. Cracknell, R. (1996, January 19). Social security changes for asylum seekers and other claimants from abroad (Parliamentary Research Paper 96/9).Google Scholar
  8. Detention Action. (2011). Fast track to despair: The unnecessary detention of asylum seekers. London: Detention Action.Google Scholar
  9. Detention Action. (2014). A crisis of harm, 16 September 2014.
  10. Detention Forum, Vulnerable People Working Group (2015). Rethinking vulnerability in detention: A crisis of harm.Google Scholar
  11. European Court demands halt to forcible return of Iraqi asylum seekers. Guardian, 5 November 2010, viewed 17 November 2015.
  12. Gillett, G. (2014, August 7). The UK must reform its treatment of asylum seekers. New Statesman.Google Scholar
  13. Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit. (1993). Immigration controls are out of control: The new asylum and immigration bill. Manchester: Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit.Google Scholar
  14. Havers, P. Q. C. Protective costs orders: Fair play or a complainants’ charter? Viewed 4 November 2015.
  15. Home Office releases Shaw review into the welfare of vulnerable persons in immigration detention. Electronic Immigration Network, 14 January 2016.
  16. House of Commons. (2015). The report of the inquiry into the use of immigration detention in the United Kingdom. A Joint Inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees & the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration, March 2015.
  17. House of Lords House of Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights. (2007). The treatment of asylum seekers tenth report of session 2006–07. Available at:
  18. Immigration detention: Signs of spring or false dawn? IRR News, 9 April 2015.
  19. Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association. (2008). The detained fast track process.
  20. Migration Observatory. (2015). Briefing on immigration detention, February 2015.
  21. Ministry of Justice. (2013). Judicial review: Proposals for further reform, September 2013., para 80.
  22. MPs back call to end indefinite immigration detention, 10 September 2015, website of Inquiry into the use of Immigration Detention.
  23. Newham Monitoring Project/CARF. (1991). Newham: The forging of a black community. London: NMP/CARF.Google Scholar
  24. Public Law Project. (2015). Guide to strategic litigation for community groups. Accessed 4 Nov 2015.
  25. Racism and the press in Blair’s Britain. CARF 48, 1999.
  26. Rowling slams treatment of child refugees. Guardian, 11 April 2004.
  27. Sivanandan, A. (1990). Communities of resistance. Verso, New York.Google Scholar
  28. Sivanandan, A. (2008). Catching history on the wing: Race, culture and globalisation. London: Pluto.Google Scholar
  29. Social Security Advisory Committee. Report on social security (Persons from Abroad) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 1996, Cm. 3062.Google Scholar
  30. Tamil deportations from UK checked by London High Court. BBC News, 28 February 2013, viewed 17 November 2015.
  31. The business of child detention. IRR News, 24 July 2014.
  32. The fading red line: Barnardo’s role in the detention and removal of children. IRR News, 15 May 2014.
  33. The Jimmy Mubenga case exposed a system in denial over racism. Guardian, 19 December 2014.
  34. UN condemns British policy on deportees. Observer, 12 June 2005, viewed 17 November 2015.
  35. Webber, F. (2012). Borderline justice: The fight for refugee and migrant rights. London: Pluto.Google Scholar
  36. Weller, P. (1987). Sanctuary: The beginning of a movement. London: Runnymede Trust.Google Scholar


  1. D and K [2006] EWHC 980.Google Scholar
  2. Hossain and others v SSHD [2016] EWHC 1331 (Admin).Google Scholar
  3. R (Das) v SSHD [2014] EWCA Civ 45.Google Scholar
  4. R (Detention Action) v SSHD [2014] EWCA Civ 1634.Google Scholar
  5. R (Detention Action) v SSHD [2014] EWHC 2245 (Admin).Google Scholar
  6. R (EM Eritrea) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] UKSC 12, Supreme Court.Google Scholar
  7. R (JM, RE, KW, MY) v SSHD [2015] EWHC 2331 (Admin).Google Scholar
  8. R (Medical Justice) v SSHD [2010] EWHC 1925 (Admin).Google Scholar
  9. R (N) v SSHD [2009] EWHC 873 (Admin).Google Scholar
  10. R (Public Law Project) v Lord Chancellor [2014] EWHC 2365 (Admin).Google Scholar
  11. R (Public Law Project) v Lord Chancellor [2016] UKSC 39.Google Scholar
  12. R (Q) v SSHD [2003] EWCA Civ 364.Google Scholar
  13. R (Refugee Action) v SSHD [2014] EWHC 1033 (Admin).Google Scholar
  14. R (Refugee Legal Centre) v SSHD [2004] EWCA Civ 1481.Google Scholar
  15. R (TH) (Bangladesh) & Ors, v SSHD EWCA Civ 815].Google Scholar
  16. R v Lord Chancellor’s Department ex parte Child Poverty Action Group [1998] EWHC 151 (Admin)Google Scholar
  17. R v SSHD ex p Ejon [1998] INLR 195, 9 October 1997.Google Scholar
  18. Salih and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2003] EWHC 2273 (Admin),
  19. ex p Khawaja [1984] AC 74 at 111-2.Google Scholar
  20. R (on the application of Detention Action) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] EWHC 2245 Admin, 9 July 2014, [2014] EWHC 2525 (Admin), [2014] EWCA Civ 1634.Google Scholar
  21. Detention Action v First-Tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) and others [2015] EWHC 1689 (Admin), upheld [2015] EWCA Civ 840, 29 July 2015.Google Scholar
  22. R v Minister for Social Security ex parte B, ex parte JCWI [1997] 1 WLR 275.Google Scholar
  23. R (Adam, Limbuela and Tesema) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2005] UKHL 66.Google Scholar


  1. Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 Google Scholar
  2. Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 Google Scholar
  3. Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 Google Scholar
  4. European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Google Scholar
  5. Human Rights Act 1998 Google Scholar
  6. Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 Google Scholar
  7. Senior Courts Act 1981 Google Scholar
  8. Social Security Act 1992 Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frances Webber
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Race RelationsLondonUK

Personalised recommendations