The “routine” housing of unaccompanied child asylum seekers in hotels by the Home Office is unlawful, the High Court has ruled.

The charity, Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT), had brought legal action against the Home Office over the practice of housing unaccompanied youngsters in Home Office hotels – claiming the arrangements are “not fit for purpose”.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Chamberlain said the use of hotels for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children has become unlawful.

He told the court the power to place children in hotels “may be used on very short periods in true emergency situations”.

The judge added: “It cannot be used systematically or routinely in circumstances where it is intended, or functions in practice, as a substitute for local authority care.”

He said the use of hotels cannot be seen as an “emergency” measure given the length of their use.

“From December 2021 at the latest, the practice of accommodating children in hotels, outside local authority care, was both systematic and routine and had become an established part of the procedure for dealing with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children,” the judge said.

“From that point on, the home secretary’s provision of hotel accommodation for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children exceeded the proper limits of her powers and was unlawful.

“There is a range of options open to the home secretary to ensure that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are accommodated and looked after as envisaged by parliament.

“It is for her to decide how to do so.”

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Home Secretary Suella Braverman during her speech in Westminster, London, for the launch of counter-terrorism strategy Contest 2023, which has been updated for the first time in five years. Picture date: Tuesday July 18, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Terrorism. Photo credit should read: Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire

Image: Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s provision of hotels for asylum-seeking children ‘was unlawful’, the judge ruled

Kent County Council acting unlawfully in failing to accommodate children

ECPAT’s bid was heard in London alongside similar claims brought by Brighton and Hove City Council and Kent County Council against the department.

The Home Office and Department for Education had opposed the legal challenges and said the hotel use was lawful but was “deployed effectively as a ‘safety net’ and as a matter of necessity”.

As well as finding the Home Office’s use of hotels to house child asylum seekers unlawful, the judge said Kent County Council is acting unlawfully in failing to accommodate and look after unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

He said: “In ceasing to accept responsibility for some newly arriving unaccompanied asylum seeking children, while continuing to accept other children into its care, Kent County Council chose to treat some unaccompanied asylum seeking children differently from and less favourably than other children, because of their status as asylum seekers.”

The court heard at the time of the hearing in the claims earlier this month, 154 children remained missing from the hotels, including a 12-year-old.

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