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Study restrictions ‘unlawfully imposed’ on university students

By Monidipa Fouzder

The Home Office has agreed to review its immigration bail guidance, a law firm has said as it was preparing to challenge the government in court next week in a case concerning two asylum-seeking university students.

National firm Duncan Lewis, which represents the students, said one was studying cancer biology and was due to sit her end-of-first-year exams when the Home Office imposed a study restriction on her. She eventually had to drop out of university. The second student, who accepted a place to study politics and international relations, was informed during the enrolment process that he had no right to study.

Duncan Lewis announced today that the Home Office ‘conceded in the settlement of two claims for judicial review that it had acted unlawfully in imposing a study restriction as a condition of bail on two individuals simply because they had failed in their initial asylum claims and exhausted their appeal rights’.

Solicitor Hannah Baynes said: ‘We have seen first-hand from our clients the positive impact that being able to study has had on them, not only in terms of gaining important knowledge and skills to enable them to pursue their career aspirations, but also the impact on their mental health and emotional well-being. The imposition of study restrictions singles out already-vulnerable asylum-seeking students from their course-mates, making them feel inferior and of less value on account of their immigration status.’

The Home Office introduced study restrictions under schedule 10 of the Immigration Act 2016, which came into force in January 2018. Guidance was issued in May 2018 stating that asylum seekers should not be prohibited from studying. However, Baynes said she continued to receive referrals of clients who had received restrictions.

When the firm was instructed to represent the cancer biology student, Baynes said ‘it became apparent that the Home Office imposed what appeared to be a blanket ban on “appeals right exhausted” (ARE) individuals studying, when their guidance clearly stated that the imposition of study restrictions for ARE individuals should be discretionary, and such a practice did not appear to be the intended aim of schedule 10’.

The Home Office told the Gazette that the government does not routinely comment on individual cases. The policy on immigration bail set out in guidance will be clarified with caseworkers as soon as reasonably practical.

The students are represented by Hannah Baynes, Helen Baron and Joud Saeb from the public law department at Duncan Lewis, who instructed barristers Shu Shin Luh and Grace Capel of Garden Court Chambers.

(Courtesy: Law Society Gazette)