The Administrative Court handed down judgment on Monday 26 July in R (HNA) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 2100 (Admin), dismissing a challenge to the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (“VPRS”). The Claimant’s essential claim was that the VPRS was operated so as to discriminate unlawfully, on grounds of religious belief, against religious minorities, and in particular Christians. The UNHCR is the exclusive body with responsibility for referring refugees to the UK authorities for possible admission under the VPRS, and the claim focused on alleged discriminatory conduct by UNHCR officials.
Following a rolled-up hearing, the Court decided that the challenge was out of time, and that time should not be extended, but that the claim was unarguable in any event. In particular, the Court decided that: (a) there was no relationship of agency between SSHD and UNHCR, and SSHD was not vicariously liable for UNHCR’s actions. Thus, a claim for direct discrimination could not succeed; (b) an indirect discrimination also failed, essentially because there was no evidence to show systemic discrimination during the interview process (UNHCR). Thus, it was not necessary to address justification; (c) a rationality argument also failed; and (d) an Article 14 ECHR claim could not get off the ground, because the ECHR did not have extra-territorial effect.
The VPRS has now been replaced by a new scheme, but the Court considered that similar issues could arise under the new scheme, so the claim was not academic.