London: The deportation of hundreds of asylum seekers who arrived in the UK on small boats could be halted after a judge ruled that the home secretary was departing from her own policy on identifying victims of trafficking. The high court case was brought by three potential victims of trafficking – one from Eritrea and two from Sudan – who recently arrived in the UK on small boats. Trafficking in Libya is well-documented, and there is a particular risk that asylum seekers who have passed through the country have been trafficked. Since the start of the pandemic, Priti Patel has departed from her own published policy to ask asylum seekers questions about their journeys to the UK.
The judge, Mr Justice Fordham, said: “It is strongly arguable that the home secretary is acting unlawfully in curtailing asylum screening interviews by asking a narrower set of questions than those that are identified in the published policy guidance.” The Home Office said that abridged questions were asked in asylum seekers’ interviews due to the pandemic. Jack Holborn, counsel for the home secretary, told the court: “Our position is, it’s a justified departure from the published policy and it doesn’t really matter.” But Fordham said he believed it was a departure “without good reason”. He added: “There is, in my judgment, a serious risk of injustice and irreversible harm from this question continuing to be unasked and unanswered.”
Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian, https://is.gd/p0vKDb