The claimant, born in a refugee camp in Western Sahara, asserted he is a stateless person within the meaning of article 1(a) of the 1954 UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (although he never made a formal statelessness application) and alleged that he was unlawfully detained under immigration powers, pending deportation. The Secretary of State attempted to obtain an emergency travel document for the claimant from various foreign authorities, yet delays were encountered. The claimant was detained throughout but it was held that the Secretary of State was acting with reasonable diligence, the decision to detain the claimant was not unlawful considering the circumstances and there was a reasonable prospect of removal during the period of detention. The claimant was a persistent absconder with multiple convictions, had been assessed as posing a high risk of harm to the public, and these factors weighed against him when assessing what was a reasonable period of detention.
Immigration Act 1971
European Convention on Human Rights
1954 UN Convention
The claimant was born in a refugee camp in Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, most of which has been occupied by Morocco since 1975 and the remainder of which is largely desert. The claimant was born in a refugee camp run by POLISARIO (the Sahrawi liberation movement) and is Sahrawi by ethnicity. The claimant claimed asylum but his application failed for non-compliance reasons. Following a series of offences, the claimant was assessed as posing a risk of harm to the public and was detained under immigration powers pending deportation. The Secretary of State attempted to obtain an emergency travel document (“ETD”) from the Western Sahara Mission. The application was refused. The Secretary of State made a second attempt to apply for an ETD from the Mission. The application included supporting evidence, including a receipt evidencing that the claimant's father was born in Western Sahara. Attempts were made to chase the application yet it then emerged that Western Sahara was not a State recognised by the UK Government and that the case should be pursued with the Algerian or Moroccan authorities. The Secretary of State therefore applied for an ETD with the Moroccan authorities, yet encountered delays. The claimant was ultimately released due to the lack of response from the Moroccan authorities.
The claimant asserted he is a stateless person within the meaning of article 1(a) of the 1954 UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (although he never made a formal statelessness application) and claimed that he was unlawfully detained under immigration powers. The basis for his claim is that his detention was unlawful on common law grounds as it was in breach of principles ,  and  of R v. Governor of Durham Prison ex parte Hardial Singh (1984) 1 WLR 704. The claimant also claimed that for the same reasons, the detention was in breach of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The four principles in Hardial Singh were formulated as follows:
- The Secretary of State must intend to deport the person and can only use the power to detain for that purpose;
- The deportee may only be detained for a period that is reasonable in all the circumstances;
- If, before the expiry of the reasonable period, it becomes apparent that the Secretary of State will not be able to effect the deportation within that reasonable period, he should not seek to exercise the power of detention;
The Secretary of State should act with the reasonable diligence and expedition to effect removal.
The Secretary of State denied that the claimant was unlawfully detained. The claimant had been deemed to constitute a risk for the public due to the several offences he committed, and was considered to be a high abscond risk. The Secretary of State claimed that carrying out reasonable steps to deport the claimant such that his detention was justified throughout on the basis that there was a sufficient prospect of deporting him within a reasonable period and where the risk of absconding was such that the period of detention was reasonable.
With regards to principles  and  of R v. Governor of Durham Prison ex parte Hardial Singh (1984) 1 WLR 704, it was held that several factors – such as the fact that the claimant was an absconder with multiple convictions, that he had been assessed as posing a high risk of harm to the public and that he had dishonestly provided at least six aliases and six dates of birth – weighed against him when assessing what was a reasonable period of detention. The Secretary of State had acted reasonably when seeking to obtain an ETD from the Western Sahara Mission twice, before attempting to obtain one from Moroccan authorities. Reasonable attempts had been made to secure progress but the Secretary of State was reliant on the Moroccan authorities to process the application and it could not be said that the decision to continue to detain while the Moroccan ETD application was processed was in any way unlawful.
As per principle , it was clear that at all times during the course of the period of detention that the Secretary of State was acting with reasonable diligence. Reasonable steps had been taken to pursue removal and the authorities being contacted were regularly chased. When it became apparent that a particular avenue could no longer be pursued, a different approach was taken promptly. It could not be said that the Secretary of State had acted other than with reasonable expedition.
R (I) v Home Secretary  EWCA Civ 888
R (MI and AO) v SSHD  EWHC 7614
R v. Governor of Durham Prison ex parte Hardial Singh (1984) 1 WLR 704
R v Home Secretary ex parti Khawaja (1984) AC74