Council loses case over home in Edinburgh for medically vulnerable refugee father-of-six

Edinburgh City Council has lost a court case against a homeless Sudanese refugee, after it ‘failed in its statutory obligation’ to help him and his family.

Saturday, 20th February 2021, 2:23 pm
Housing case was heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh

Adbelwahab-kaba Dafalla was refused help by the council in March 2020, at the height of the first wave of coronavirus, despite being homeless and being particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 due to suffering from diabetes.

However, the council contended that because it had previously offered Mr Dafalla permanent housing in the past, which he had refused, it had fulfilled its statutory obligations to him.

Mr Dafalla, 64, and of no fixed abode, was granted indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom 2014, and his family - his wife and six children - joined him in November 2015.

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Ruling: Lord Brailsford

In May 2015, Mr Dafalla made an application for accommodation and assistance to Edinburgh City Council, and in November of that year the local authority housed Mr Dafalla and his family in temporary accommodation in Wester Hailes Park.

In 2016, the council decided Mr Dafalla was homeless - which meant the local authority had an obligation to find the family permanent accommodation.

The council subsequently made two accommodation offers to Mr Dafalla, both of which were refused.

In October 2016, the council decided it had fulfilled its statutory obligation to Mr Dafalla, and began eviction proceedings to recover the temporary accommodation in West Hailes Park.

Nearly three years later, in March 2020, the council was granted an order for recovering the property.

Before evicting the family, the council was contacted by agents acting on behalf of Mr Dafalla, and the local authority agreed to make another offer of permanent accommodation, which it did so in August 2019.

This was again refused by Mr Dafalla, and in January 2020, Mr Dafalla and his family were finally evicted.

In March 2020, during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Dafalla again sought assistance from Edinburgh City Council, by instructing his agent to contact the local authority by email - however, the council refused to help the family.

Now, a Court of Session judge who presided over the action at Scotland’s highest civil court has ruled that by refusing to help Mr Dafalla and his family during the coronavirus pandemic, and by not investigating his current circumstances, Edinburgh City Council had failed in its statutory obligations to provide accommodation and assistance to people experiencing homelessness.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Mr Dafalla, who suffers from diabetes, functional dyspepsia and osteoarthritis in his left knee, argued that his medical conditions put him at an increased risk of severe illness should he contract coronavirus.

They also stated that Mr Dafalla and his family had been forced to stay where they could find accommodation from night to night, and that the family was in urgent need of accommodation to protect Mr Dafalla from contracting coronavirus.

Edinburgh City Council, on the other hand, argued it had fulfilled its obligations the first time Mr Dafalla applied for assistance, and the emails it received from his agent in March 2020 did not constitute new information that might compel them to do so.

The sitting judge, Lord Brailsford, wrote in his judicial review: “It is plain from the terms of the response that the refusal to accept the application is based upon a consideration of the contents of the email without any investigation as to any aspect of those contents.

“I pause to observe that the follow-up emails did contain additional information in the form of various medical reports.

“I do not consider that the bare consideration of the email of 24 March without any further inquiry or investigation in relation to what was disclosed therein would entitle the respondents to take the position they did in their response.

“I note further that they offer no explanation in the response as to any reasoning behind the decision they reached.

“The terms of the response amount in my view to no more than an assertion that there was nothing further to consider.

“Having regard to the foregoing I am satisfied that the respondents have failed to perform their statutory duties under sections 28 to 31 of the [Housing (Scotland) Act] 1987 Act.”

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