AM (Zimbabwe) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2020] UKSC 17

Another day, another Home Office immigration decision…

In this case, Lord Wilson gave a landmark judgment which changed the law, expanding the circumstances in which a person may resist being removed or deported from the UK on medical grounds.

The appellant is a 33-year old man from Zimbabwe who has resided in the UK since 2000 but was subsequently placed under a deportation order for serious criminal offending, including a 9 year prison sentence for possession of a firearm and possession of heroin with intent to supply.

However, he has also been HIV positive since 2003. Whilst this condition is being kept under control through antiretroviral medication available in the UK, he argued that it is doubtful whether he would be able to access the necessary drugs in Zimbabwe there, leaving him prey to opportunistic infections which could lead to his death. It is contended that deporting him would constitute a breach of the prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment under Article 3 ECHR.

The Supreme Court held that the proper approach to Article 3 was modified by the European Court of Human Rights in Paposhvili v Belgium [2017] Imm AR 867. The relevant test now is whether removal would give rise to a real risk of a serious, rapid and irreversible decline in the person’s state of health resulting in intense suffering, or to a substantial reduction in life expectancy. This does not require that death be imminent.

The case was remitted back to the Upper Tribunal for a panel which would hopefully include the President to consider whether the anticipated further evidence in this case met this test.

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