The High Court (Laing J) has, on 8th and 9th May, heard argument on the legality of the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. The Scheme was original established to assist Syrian nationals forced to leave their homes in Syria because of the civil war there. As originally formulated, it was restricted to Syrian nationals only. However, in July 2017 it was amended to remove that nationality bar.
The Claimants are all Palestine Refugees under the mandate of the UN Relief and Works Agency (“UNRWA”). As such, they are excluded from the scope of the Refugee Convention by Article 1D of that instrument and, similarly, do not fall within the mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (“UNHCR”). The Scheme operates on the basis of referrals to the United Kingdom authorities from UNHCR. The claim centres on whether, in these circumstances, the claimants are excluded from accessing the Scheme in practice because they fall under the mandate of UNRWA rather than UNHCR. They allege that the Scheme is unlawful on three grounds: indirect discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 and at common law; illogically and irrationality at common law; and breach of the public sector equality duty in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010. The arguments involve difficult issues concerning the extraterritorial effect of the Equality Act 2010.
David Blundell is representing the Secretary of State for the Home Department, led by Jonathan Hall QC.”