Home Office admits it sent asylum seeker’s personal info to the state he was fleeing
UK.gov pays £15,500 in damages after failed fact-check
An asylum seeker has won £15,500 from the UK’s Home Office after it blabbed confidential information about his persecution in his home country - to authorities in the state.
In a poorly thought-through attempt to verify the authenticity of a set of documents about the asylum seeker, the Home Office sent them to authorities in his home state in the Middle East.
The material shared with the state contained "highly sensitive information corroborating the asylum seeker's claims", according to the man's solicitor, Daniel Carey of Deighton Pierce Glynn.
Carey said the man – who cannot be named – sought damages from the Home Office as the disclosure "gave rise to serious risk" of the persecuting authorities being alerted to his asylum claim, which could have put him and his family in danger.
The Home Office accepted that the disclosure was in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, immigration rules and UN guidance on handling asylum claims, and agreed to pay the settlement.
Meanwhile, the asylum seeker's claims were found to be genuine, Carey told The Guardian, and he was granted asylum in the UK.
The Home Office has form when it comes to mishandling asylum cases: in 2016, six asylum seekers' details were mistakenly made available online.
In that case, TLT v Home Office, the government paid a combined £39,500 to the claimants for the misuse of private information and breaching the Data Protection Act.
However, Carey told The Register that it was possible there were more cases like this – but it was hard to know how many.
"This case follows the TLT case in 2016. And the Home Office were slow to accept liability and refused to apologise in this case, which makes me worry that there could be more cases out there, possibly unknown to the victims themselves," he said.
"Certainly, our Freedom of Information act requests show that the Home Office are not monitoring the issue centrally."
These requests, which asked for the numbers of incidents of unauthorised sharing of asylum information, were refused on the grounds that there was no central system.
"To identify the required information would require the detailed manual interrogation of every asylum claim lodged over the last 5 years. This equates to more than 100,000 cases," the Home Office is reported to have responded.
The Home Office, which is not able to comment on individual cases, said: "In accordance with our obligations under the Refugee Convention and European and UK law, we do not disclose information about an individual's asylum claim from that person's home country, or seek information in a way that could expose them, or any family who remain in that country, to serious risk. We take any breach of this principle extremely seriously." ®