Statewatch article: RefNo# 6742
The worst law yet: the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002
Statewatch News Online, April 2003
In a test case in February 2003 brought by a number of destitute claimants, the High Court ruled that the government's denial of all support to late asylum claimants was illegal and breached their fundamental human rights. David Blunkett immediately complained that the judges were frustrating his policies and parliament's intention and making a proper asylum policy impossible. An appeal against the decision was rushed forward and was heard on 3 and 4 March.

The test case was brought by a number of refugee organisations against provisions of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 which came into force on 8 January 2003. Under the new law, adult asylum seekers deemed to have applied for asylum late get nothing at all to keep them alive, unless they have children under 18. The result of the new law was asylum seekers, some physically injured or psychologically disturbed, having to queue for hours in the bitter cold outside the Home Office, and then having to sleep rough because NASS refused to provide them with support on the ground that they should have applied at the port. On the first day of the measure's operation, three people were taken to hospital with hypothermia.

Section 55, which penalises late claimants, was one of a number of ever more draconian measures introduced by government amendment as the Bill went through parliament. The normal process of negotiation resulting in compromise and softening or withdrawal of the tougher provisions was reversed, as the government used the parliamentary process to make a harsh law harsher. Other late amendments disentitled refugees resident elsewhere in Europe, and EU nationals, from social service assistance and support; re-introduced the notorious "white list" of "safe" countries of origin abolished in 1999; and for the first time removed in-country appeal rights from asylum claimants whose claims the Secretary of State deems "clearly unfounded".

Since the "white list" provisions came into force on 7 November 2002, asylum seekers whose claims are deemed 'clearly unfounded' by the Home Office have no right of appeal before removal from the UK. Asylum claims from countries on a list must rebut a presumption that they are clearly unfounded in order to obtain an in-country appeal. The list comprises the ten "accession states" of central and eastern Europe accepted for membership of the EU in 2004 - including the Czech and Slovak republics, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The government argues that the countries on the list are safe and democratic and so no-one coming from them is expected to be a genuine refugee - despite the fact that the Roma populations in at least four of the accession states are the most persecuted group in Europe, enjoying (according to a January 2003 UNDP report) a sub-Saharan standard of living, with one-sixth of them starving and one-third of their children unable to complete primary school, and suffering (according to a UN report) "degrading treatment" by police.

"White list" nationals are detained at Oakington, where they are processed within seven days and can be removed from the country in ten. In one of the first legal challenges under the new regime, the Court of Appeal upheld the Secretary of State's contention that rape of a Roma woman by Czech police was not enough to rebut the presumption that her asylum claim was ill-founded. In February 2003, in response to a sustained anti-asylum seeker campaign by the Sun and the Daily Mail, David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, announced an extension of the "white list" to Albania (where politics can resemble gang warfare), Bulgaria, Jamaica (where the biggest threat is from organised crime), Macedonia, Moldova, Romania (with its large, persecuted Roma population) and Serbia/Montenegro (where ethnic tensions are bubbling and minorities continue to be at risk).

Support and control

The asylum support provisions of the Act further refine the control exercised b

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