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01 May 2020

High Court orders the release of immigration detainee at high risk of complications from covid-19

2 mins

On 29 April 2020 Johnson J ordered the release of Samson Bello, a detainee at Brook House immigration removal Centre, where cases of covid-19 have been reported. Mr Bello suffers from serious mental health issues as well as asthma, type-1 diabetes and sleep apnoea, placing him at particularly high risk of complications should he contract the virus. On 27 March 2020 he received a ‘shielding’ letter, advising him to self-isolate, a feat which was near impossible in the congregate setting of Brook House. 

Mr Bello had been in immigration detention since December 2020, despite concerns being expressed about the effects of even a short period of detention on his mental health. Seven previous attempts at deportation had been unsuccessful, with the last four sets of removal directions being cancelled due to Home Office procedural errors or lack of resources.

Mr Bello’s application for interim relief initially came before Chamberlain J on 17 April 2020. The judgment is available here. Chamberlain J declined to grant interim relief but ordered that Mr Bello’s case be considered at an urgent ‘rolled up’ hearing on 29 April.

It was submitted on Mr Bello’s behalf that his detention was unlawful under the so called Hardial Singh principles, and that it was in breach of the Home Office Adults at Risk policy. Nigeria’s borders remained closed due to covid-19 and removal directions set for 25 May 2020 had been cancelled. The Home Office had failed to treat Mr Bello as a level 3 Adult At Risk despite their policy that those at high risk of complications from covid-19 should be treated as such. Concerns about the conduct of the Home Office within these proceedings were raised following their failure to disclose key policies and their failure to file a skeleton argument. 

Johnson J held that Mr Bello’s detention was unlawful, and ordered his immediate release upon suitable accommodation being available.

This is an important judgment for those at high risk of contracting covid-19 in immigration detention. Mr Bello was represented by Elizabeth Cleaver of Bindmans LLP and Tim Buley QC of Landmark Chambers.

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