Fears people being deported from the UK are unable to access justice as number of appeals plummets

Exclusive: Rate of deportation orders appealed more than halves in two years, raising questions over why government is pushing to limit appeal rights further

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Sunday 23 January 2022 13:28 GMT
Lawyers warn that ‘declining access to legal advice’ for deportees has made it ‘almost impossible’ to successfully challenge deportation
Lawyers warn that ‘declining access to legal advice’ for deportees has made it ‘almost impossible’ to successfully challenge deportation (Getty)

Campaigners warn that people being deported from the UK are struggling to access justice as figures show the number of legal challenges has plummeted in recent years.

New data obtained via freedom of information laws (FOI) reveals that the rate at which deportation orders are being appealed dropped from nearly one in three (30 per cent) in 2019 to nearly one in eight (12 per cent) last year.

Lawyers said “declining access to legal advice” for deportees – caused in part by the pandemic and in part by cuts to legal aid – has made it “almost impossible” to successfully challenge deportation.

The figures have raised questions over controversial government plans to reduce people’s rights to challenge removal from Britain in order to ensure foreign nationals are not “incrementally and systematically frustrated by new and expanding human rights claims”.

Justice secretary Dominic Raab announced last month that removing this appeal right under his new Bill of Rights would prevent the system from being “abused” by “dangerous criminals”.

But campaigners say the new FOI data reveals this position to be “utterly fictitious”, arguing that practical barriers to accessing justice have increased.

“Extreme delays at initial decision and in listing hearings combined with declining access to legal advice for detained individuals mean that an appeal right is becoming increasingly illusory,” said Jamie Bell, lawyer at Duncan Lewis Solicitors.

The data, obtained by charity Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), shows that 45 deportation appeals were lodged out of 384 deportation orders served (12 per cent) last year, compared with 460 out of 1,548 (30 per cent) in 2019. The drop in overall deportation orders is likely to be largely due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

During the pandemic, the number of people facing removal who were held in prisons as opposed to immigration removal centres for Covid-19 safety reasons increased significantly, rising by 45 per cent in 2020.

The High Court ruled last February that the government was failing to provide immigration detainees held in prisons adequate access to publicly funded legal advice, in breach of their rights.

Individuals detained in removal centres have access to an advice surgery that guarantees access to 30 minutes’ legal advice regardless of means or merit. Those detained under immigration powers in a prison previously did not, but this was amended in November 2021 following a consultation, and now they too can access 30 minutes of legal advice.

Charity Detention Action warned last year that the law firms invited by the government to attend the advice surgery in immigration removal centres were often “inexperienced” and made errors that are “often impossible” for individuals to correct before removal from the UK.

Rudy Schulkind, research and policy coordinator at BID, which obtained the figures, said: “In recent months [Mr] Raab has repeatedly described deportation appeals are a ‘nonsense’ before going on to make broader attacks on the Human Rights Act.

“Yet his government’s data shows this position to be utterly fictitious – very few deportation appeals are lodged and of those, very few succeed.

“The reality is that successive pieces of legislation have already made it almost impossible to successfully challenge deportation, while practical barriers to accessing justice have increased including cuts to legal aid and the increasing use of prisons for immigration detention.”

A government spokesperson, said: “Legal support is available to those facing deportation as well as access to legal aid in some cases through the exceptional case funding scheme.

“However, we must have a system where rights do not frustrate the deportation of serious criminals who pose a risk to law-abiding people in this country – 70 per cent of successful human rights challenges are brought by foreign national offenders and our human rights reforms will address this issue.”

The Independent has reported on numerous cases whereby people with British children have been threatened with removal for crimes committed many years ago, sometimes when they were teenagers, and have struggled to access legal advice and representation to appeal their deportation orders.

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