The appeal in FA (Sudan), R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 59 (22 January 2021) represents an ambitious endeavour to widen the categories of applicants able to rely upon the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (“the DDVC Concession”).
The Appellant in FA(Sudan) challenged a decision by the Secretary of State to the effect that she did not qualify for leave to remain in the UK outside the Immigration Rules under the concessionary policy.
Before the Court of Appeal, the Appellant sought to challenge the lawfulness of the policy in the DDVC.
The Appellant, FA, a Sudanese married a British Citizen on 28 October 2011 and gave birth to their first child in Sudan on 4 August 2012. The Appellant travelled to the Netherlands from Sudan on 12 December 2014.
FA’s husband visited from the UK for short periods monthly. During those visits he spent time with FA. FA’s husband was not working or studying in the Netherlands while FA lived there. FA was not working but was being paid around €100 to €250 per month by her husband and he paid her rent. She had no other means of funding.
FA later entered the UK with her husband, using a Dutch residence card, on 13 August 2015. FA had obtained the Dutch residence card from a government building and her husband assisted her in obtaining the residence card, attending interviews as her interpreter and attending to paperwork.
FA gave birth to their second child on 21 September 2015.
FA resided with her husband in Birmingham until January 2016, when she left the matrimonial home.
The nature of the DDVC Concession
The relevant provisions of the DDVC and Immigration Rules are set out in detail between paragraphs 16 and 18 of FA(Sudan).
In summary the following applies:
- The DDV Concession is a policy operated by the Home Office outside of the Immigration Rules to allow eligible applicants, who intend to make an application for settlement under the domestic violence rules, to be granted leave outside the Rules and permitting them to access public funds and vital services.
- This gives the applicant access to temporary accommodation such as a refuge in order to leave her or his abusive partner and to submit a settlement application under the domestic violence rules. A successful applicant for leave outside the Rules under the DDV Concession does not have to meet the habitual residence test she or he would otherwise have to meet with other types of leave under criteria set by the Department of Work and Pensions.
- If a successful applicant for leave outside the Rules under the DDV Concession fails to submit her or his application for settlement under the domestic violence rules within three months of the grant of leave to remain outside the Rules under the DDV Concession, then the applicant becomes an overstayer and becomes subject to removal from the United Kingdom. The DDV Concession stipulates that within 28 days of an applicant’s leave outside the Rules lapsing the applicant’s case should be referred for enforcement action.
In order to be eligible for the DDV Concession, the applicant must satisfy all of the following conditions:
- the applicant must previously have been granted leave to enter or remain as the spouse, civil partner or unmarried or same-sex partner of a British citizen, a settled person or a member of HM Forces who has served for at least four years;
- the applicant’s relationship with her (or his) spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner must have broken down as a result of domestic violence;
- the applicant must claim to be destitute and not to have access to funds; and
- the applicant must intend to apply for indefinite leave to remain as a victim of domestic violence under one of the following provisions of the Immigration Rules: paragraph 289A; paragraph 40 of Appendix Armed Forces; or section DVILR of Appendix FM (Family Members).
Moore-Bick LJ in R (T) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 801, stated at paragraph 11: “In my view when considering an application under the DDV Concession for temporary relief the Secretary of State must ask herself whether, as things stand at the date of the application, the applicant would on the face of it be able to meet the requirements of section DVILR. If it is clear that she would not, the Secretary of State is entitled to refuse relief. That does not involve construing section E-DVILR by reference to the concession; it simply involves asking oneself whether, if the applicant were to make an application for indefinite leave to remain, she could satisfy the terms of the section. In the present case it was clear that she could not do so and for that reason alone she cannot succeed in this case.”
Why FA was ineligible for the DDV Concession on its terms
FA could not show the following as required by the DDV Concession:
- that she had previously been granted leave to enter or remain as the spouse, civil partner or unmarried or same-sex partner of a British citizen, a settled person or a member of HM Forces who has served for at least four years.
- that she intended to apply for indefinite leave to remain as a victim of domestic violence under one of the following provisions of the Immigration Rules: paragraph 289A; paragraph 40 of Appendix Armed Forces; or section DVILR of Appendix FM (Family Members).
She did not satisfy the pre-conditions to applying under any of the mentioned routes.
Refusal of application by the Secretary of State
On 4 August 2016, FA applied for leave outside the Immigration Rules under the DDVC.
On 9 August 2016, that application was refused on the grounds that FA was not eligible for leave to remain under the DDVC, as she did not meet the criteria set out in the DDVC as did not enter the United Kingdom or was not given leave to remain in the United Kingdom as a spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same sex partner of a British citizen or someone present and settled in the UK.
Judicial review proceedings
On 3 November 2016, FA applied for permission to bring a claim for judicial review of that decision.
The substantive claim for judicial review was heard by Murray J on 7 November 2018 and dismissed in the judgment given on 14 December 2018.
Murray J held as follows:
- FA did not enter the UK as the spouse of a British citizen exercising EEA rights.
- regulation 9 of the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 only applies if the returning British citizen was residing in the EEA state as a worker or self-employed person; FA’s husband was not.
- the fact that FA entered the UK using a valid Dutch residence card which was checked by an immigration officer as she boarded a ferry was not sufficient for the purposes of regulation 9.
- FA had not been unlawfully discriminated against in contravention of Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”), read with Article 8. In that context, he said that FA’s case was distinguishable on its facts from the decision of the Inner House of the Court of Session in A v Secretary of State for the Home Department CSIH 38;  SC 776.
- there was no violation of Article 24 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, whether read with Article 18 of Directive 2012/29/EU of the Parliament and Council establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime (“the Directive”) or alone.
- section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 (“the 2009 Act”) was not relevant to this case.
FA appealed to the Court of Appeal.
Considerations and conclusions by the Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal took into account the grounds of appeal raised and decided as follows:
Whether there was a breach of Article 14 ECHR( unlawful discrimination) and Article 8 of the ECHR:
- It was argued that the Judge erred in law by not holding that FA had been unlawfully discriminated against in contravention of Article 14 ECHR, read with Article 8.
- The Judge failed to consider the discriminatory impact of the DDVC on three particular groups of victims of domestic violence, by reference to gender, motherhood and immigration status
- Article 14 ECHR, the equality provision, provides: “The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.
- On behalf of the Appellant it was contended that the relevant comparison was between victims of domestic violence who have been granted a spousal visa under the Immigration Rules (and granted assistance under the DDVC) and those who have not. It was submitted that the distinction was one of form, not substance. The situations are comparable in that they are partners who have suffered domestic violence during their marriage and stay in the UK and require assistance from the state. It was argued that there was no objective and reasonable justification for the difference in treatment.
- The Court accepted that the Concession does distinguish directly between those who have a visa as the spouse or partner of a person who is, for example, a British citizen and those who do not. The Court however stated that it did not however, differentiate between men and women, so there was no direct discrimination on grounds of sex. Nor was there direct discrimination on grounds of motherhood, since the Concession applies to fathers as well as mothers; and applies whether or not an applicant has children.
- The onus to prove as a matter of fact that an apparently neutral policy has a disproportionate impact on a protected group, and therefore constitutes indirect discrimination, lies on a claimant. In the Court’s view, the evidence on this issue was unsatisfactory. What would be required in a case like the present was more specific evidence, to show that the distinction drawn on its face by the Concession has a disproportionate impact on a protected group.
- It may well be that more women are likely to fail under the Concession than men because more women are the victims of domestic violence than men. But, it will probably be the case that the beneficiaries of the Concession are also predominantly women. Both consequences would seem to follow from the unfortunate reality that most victims of domestic violence are women. In principle, before a complaint of indirect discrimination could get off the ground, it would have to be established on evidence that the beneficiaries of a policy are more likely to be men, whereas those who are disadvantaged by it are more likely to be women.
- The Court stated, without deciding the point, it was prepared to assume for the purposes of the argument that there was relevant indirect discrimination. The critical question, was whether any discrimination was objectively justified. In the Court’s view, it was.
- The fundamental starting point was the rationale for the policy in the Concession. It was that a person whose application for settlement in the UK is dependent on her spouse or partner should not feel compelled to stay in an abusive relationship for that reason. Otherwise there is a danger that the immigration system itself will contribute to an injustice, because the victim of domestic violence may be exploited by her abuser precisely because her ability to apply for settlement will be jeopardised if she is no longer living with the abusive partner.
- Once it is recognised that that is the underlying rationale of the Concession, there is an objective justification for the distinction drawn based on immigration status. If that distinction were not made, the rationale for the policy would simply not be achieved. For the same reason, any indirect discrimination on grounds of sex or motherhood is also objectively justified.
- It is important to bear in mind that the Concession is limited in its scope. It is not a general policy dealing with all aspects of domestic violence in the UK or even all aspects of domestic violence against people who have no right to remain in the UK. It is a limited concession, for a period of three months, to enable a person to make an application for settlement in the UK, so that they can access public funds that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
- There are many other ways in which a state protects the victims of domestic violence. An obvious way is through the criminal law. The enforcement of the criminal law will not depend on the immigration status of the victim. There may also in principle be access to publicly funded accommodation or other assistance. For example, in the present case, there was evidence from the Appellant herself that she and her two children have been accommodated at public expense since they left the matrimonial home, pursuant to section 17 of the Children Act 1989.
Whether Murray J erred in holding that FA’s case was distinguishable on the facts from A v Secretary of State for the Home Department:
In response the Court in FA(Sudan) noted and concluded:
- The judgment of the Inner House in A v Secretary of State for the Home Department  CSIH 38;  SC 776 was given by Lady Dorrian and the version of the Concession which was in effect at the relevant time has subsequently been amended to take account of the judgment of the Inner House.
- At the relevant time the policy did not apply to a sponsor who was a refugee in the UK: it only applied if the sponsor was a British citizen or was settled in the UK. On behalf of the Secretary of State it was submitted that this was not unlawful under Article 14 because a refugee sponsor could be regarded as being in an analogous position to a student or a visitor to the UK. The Inner House rejected that argument.
- Lady Dorrian considered that the proper analogy was with a British citizen or a person who has settled in the UK. One reason for this was that there was evidence before the Court that a very high percentage (95%) of refugees go on to acquire settled status in the UK(para. 67). Another reason for this was that, unlike students or visitors who come to this country from choice, refugees are outside their own country out of necessity, because of a well-founded fear of persecution. Accordingly, the UK owes them international obligations of protection( para. 66).
- On behalf of FA it was argued that the Judge was wrong to say that the decision of the Inner House in the case of A was distinguishable on its facts.
- The Court of Appeal in FA(Sudan) concluded that the critical point of distinction from the present case was that the appellant in A did have limited leave to be in the UK as the result of her relationship with her sponsor. FA did not have such limited leave. The appellant in A therefore fell within the rationale of the policy in the DDVC, whereas the present Appellant did not.
Whether Murray J was wrong to hold that section 55 of the 2009 Act has no relevance
It was contended that FA had two dependent children who are British citizens and the children were described as being “secondary victims” of the domestic abuse suffered by their mother.
It was argued that there was a breach of section 55 of the 2009 Act.
It was contended that the Secretary of Stated was required to extend the scope of the Concession to include applicants such as FA.
The Court concluded rejecting the argument:
- Section 55 was undoubtedly important, as has been stressed by the Supreme Court, including in immigration cases such as R (MM (Lebanon)) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 10;  1 WLR 271. Nevertheless, it is a process duty and does not dictate any particular outcome in a case like the present.
- The Court reiterated that the policy under challenge does not distinguish between those who have children and those who do not. Section 55 did not in the Court’s view require the Secretary of State to contradict the fundamental rationale for the Concession. If the policy were to be extended in the way which the Appellant sought to do, that is the effect of what would happen. Section 55 does not dictate that resu
The Court of Appeal dismissed FA’s appeal.