Asylum: Detained fast-track ruled unlawful but government to appeal

Asylum: Detained fast-track ruled unlawful but government to appeal

The UK government’s fast-track asylum appeals procedure is “structurally unfair” and unlawful, according to a High Court ruling.

Mr Justice Nicol, sitting in London, said the detained fast-track system puts claimants at a “serious procedural disadvantage” and remarked it “looks uncomfortably akin to sacrificing fairness on the altar of speed and convenience”.

He said the system should be quashed, but put a stay on the order to give Lord Chancellor Michael Gove and Home Secretary Theresa May an opportunity to appeal the decision.

A government spokesperson confirmed that the Conservative administration is “disappointed by this ruling and will be appealing”.

The spokesperson added: “Detained fast-track is an important part of our immigration system. It contributes significantly to the speed and effectiveness with which asylum cases are processed – including swiftly removing those found not to be in need of protection – and saves the taxpayer money.”

Ian Macdonald QC, former chairman of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, toldThe Telegraph that the High Court decision could lead to thousands of pounds in compensation pay-outs.

He said: “There are almost certainly now going to be claims for compensation on behalf of some of the people who have been through the fast-track process.

“I think these are likely to come from people who have been represented by a lawyer rather than those who were unrepresented, which of course is one of the criticisms of the system as a whole.

“Their success will depend on how any further appeals against today’s ruling turn out. The whole fast-track system has been a complete mess for some time now.”

The legal challenge was brought by charity Detention Action, which has campaigned since 1993 on behalf of individuals held in immigration detention centres.

Detained fast-track was first introduced in 2000, but the latest published figures, for 2013, show a 72 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of people put through the process.

The High Court was asked to consider whether the Tribunal Procedures Committee, the judicial body responsible for drafting the new rules that took effect in September 2014, had discretion over implementing the Home Office timetable for appeals and whether they were ultra vires.

Jerome Phelps, director of Detention Action, said: “We are pleased that the fast-track appeals process has been found not just unlawful but ultra vires. But we are shocked and disappointed that a stay has been granted, given that this is an area of law requiring the highest standards of justice and fairness.

“The Court has judged that the severe potential consequences to asylum-seekers, including removal in breach of the Refugee Convention, are outweighed by the inconvenience to the Home Office and Lord Chancellor of suspending the process.”

Detention Action says it is considering urgently appealing the order refusing the stay.

A statement from the charity criticised the court decision for allowing asylum seekers to continue to face an appeals system that has been found unlawful.

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