UK's 'structurally unfair' asylum appeals process suspended by court after legal challenge

A charity had argued that the fast-track process was unfair

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A court has suspended the UK’s fast-track asylum appeals system after a legal challenge by a charity that says it is “structurally unfair”.

Lawyers from Action Detention argued that it was unlawful for asylum seekers to be detained during their appeals process even when there was a good chance their case could be valid.

The ruling means that the Home Office can no longer detain asylum seekers during their appeal simply for claiming asylum, and that the system’s tight deadlines can no longer be imposed upon applicants.

The High Court had previously ordered the appeals process to be suspended, but the Court of Appeal had said the Government could keep the system running while an appeal by ministers was heard.

The appeal court has now agreed that the system should be suspended, however.

Speaking from outside the Court of Appeal today Jerome Phelps, the director of Action Detention, said the Government should develop a new approach to asylum appeals.


“We are delighted that asylum-seekers will no longer face a detained appeals process that is so unfair as to be unlawful.  It is unfortunate that it has taken so many court rulings to finally suspend this deeply flawed process,” he said.

“People seeking protection from war and persecution deserve better from British justice.   We hope that the government will take this opportunity to reflect and develop a different approach that is fair.”

The charity says many applicants processed through the fast-track scheme are from countries with a recent history of armed conflict, including Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

The current system has been in place for a decade.

The Refugee Council, a charity that works to support asylum seekers, said detaining people on the basis that they were asking for protection was not right.

"This ruling is a very welcome, though painfully long overdue, recognition that the Detained Fast Track is a dangerous caricature of justice," the charity's chief executive Maurice Wren said.

"Today the courts have acknowledged the unlawfulness of a system that for administrative and political convenience undermines justice and puts lives at risk.

"The Government must now accept that detaining people because they asked for refugee protection in the UK is inhumane and deeply unjust."

A Government spokesperson said: "We will be continuing with our appeal of the main judgement in this case.

"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.”