Asylum fast-track system is illegal, high court finds

Fast-track: Campaigners have long said the restrictions of the system make it impossible for asylum seekers to get a fair hearing
Asylum fast-track: Campaigners have long said the restrictions of the system make it impossible for asylum seekers to get a fair hearing
Ian Dunt By

The fast-track decision making process used by the Home Office for asylum seekers has been ruled unlawful by the high court.

Mr Justice Nicol said the system was "structurally unfair" but put a stay on the order taking effect so that the lord chancellor and home secretary have time to appeal his decision because it would be "inconvenient" to do otherwise.

That means that until the lord chancellor appeals, asylum seekers will continue to face an appeals process which has been judged unlawful.

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


Lawyers argued that the severely truncated timescales faced by people appealing in the system made it hard for them to obtain evidence and build a case.

They also raised questions about a potential conflict of interest in the role of the home secretary, who is the respondent to the appeal but also has the power of imposing the disadvantageous timescale on the person launching it.

Mr Justice Nicol said:

"They [the rules] put the appellant at a serious procedural disadvantage… because his opponent in the appeal, the [home secretary], has decided that this is what should happen.

"By allowing one party to the appeal to put the other at serious procedural disadvantage without sufficient judicial supervision, the rules are not securing that justice be done or that the tribunal system is fair."

He added: This "looks uncomfortably akin to… sacrificing fairness on the altar of speed and convenience."

Detention Action director Jerome Phelps 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.

"By granting the stay, it appears that the judge considers 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."

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