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The Supreme Court has handed down a judgment on the territorial scope of the public sector equality duty (“PSED”) in section 149(1) of the Equality Act 2010.

The appeal related to the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme instituted by the Government in 2014. The Scheme relies on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (“UNHCR”) to identify and recommend refugees to be resettled in the UK. Palestinian refugees fall within the exclusive remit of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (“UNRWA”) and are therefore outside the remit of the UNHCR. In practice, this means that Palestinian refugees cannot take part in the Resettlement Scheme.

The appellant, a Palestinian refugee, brought judicial review proceedings challenging the lawfulness of the Resettlement Scheme. The Supreme Court appeal related to the extent to which the Secretary of State was required to comply with the PSED when the exercise of her function affected the lives of people living outside the UK. The Appellant submitted that the Secretary of State had failed to have due regard to relevant equality needs, in particular the need to advance equality of opportunity for persons who share a relevant protected characteristic (being a Palestinian refugee) as compared with persons who do not share it (other refugees).

The Supreme Court held that the PSED does not have extraterritorial effect in this case and dismissed the appeal.

Ben Jaffey KC and Emma Dixon acted for the Appellant.

Sir James Eadie KC and Jason Pobjoy acted for the Respondent.

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