Home Office to make failed asylum applicants in Scotland appeal in England from next week
The UK government is to move ahead with plans to force asylum seekers in Scotland to lodge appeals in England amid legal challenges to the move.
In January the Sunday Herald reported that the Home Office intended to alter the asylum system by forcing anyone who wanted to appeal to stay in the UK to meet with immigration officials in Liverpool.
However, following strong criticism from refugee charities, Scottish ministers and Liverpool City Council, the plans were put on hold.
But it has emerged the Home Office is to go ahead and make the change from March 30 according to a letter leaked to the Sunday Herald.
Despite this, a Glasgow-based solicitor as well as Liverpool City Council are to challenge the decision in the courts.
The new rules apply to asylum seekers whose first applications have been rejected but want to re-submit new support for their case.
This may include proof of persecution on return to their home country.
Documents are submitted by post or at a local immigration centre but under the new system applicants will need to travel to Liverpool.
In addition, those who have had financial support withdrawn and are not permitted to work will not receive expenses for the journey.
Andy Knox, a senior solicitor at Hamilton Burns WS (pictured) said: “This is not a surprising development.
“The Home Office have very wide discretion to control the administrative procedures relating to all aspects of asylum policy.
“Because it is such a huge department of the Home Office, UK Visas & Immigration have offices spread throughout England, in Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool, Birmingham and their main offices at Lunar House in Croydon.
“As immigration is such a political hot potato, and the UK Border Agency was apparently incapable getting on top of it’s processing backlogs, immigration ministers obsessively tinker with application procedures and move responsibility for various different types of applications from office to office.
“Previously, fresh claims for asylum made under paragraph 353 of the Immigration Rules could be handed into the nearest UKVI office, or be sent to regional offices by post.
“Migrants who have previously made unsuccessful claims for asylum will, by definition, likely be destitute.
“Travelling to Liverpool to submit a fresh claim in person may be very difficult.
“If the secretary of state is not willing to provide direct funding to meet the cost of applicant’s travel to Liverpool, then she arguably has a duty to make funding available to third party agencies such as the Scottish Refugee Council or Migrant Help.
“If applicant’s cannot easily access funding to travel to Liverpool, then any decision to refusal to accept an application submitted elsewhere, will most likely be amenable to challenge on a variety of public law grounds by way of judicial review.
“As a signatory to the Refugee Convention, the secretary of state cannot place unduly onerous practical or financial barriers to individuals seeking international protection under the Convention.”
Fraser Latta, a Glasgow-based immigration lawyer, is challenging the policy.
He said: “It is disappointing that the Home Office have proceeded with this policy, which significantly impacts upon some of the most vulnerable people within our society. It remains our position that the proposed change is potentially unlawful.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “These changes will apply only to failed asylum seekers whose claims have already been refused.
“They will significantly speed up decision-making, enabling us to grant protection more quickly to those who need it.”