The Government’s fast-track appeal system for processing asylum applications has been declared unlawful by the High Court.
A judge ruled the system, which has been in use for a decade to speed up the processing of asylum seeker claims, is “structurally unfair” because it puts claimants at a “serious procedural disadvantage”.
Mr Justice Nicol, sitting in London, said the system must be quashed but put a stay on his order taking effect to give the Lord Chancellor and Home Secretary time to appeal his decision to the Court of Appeal.
The judge said in his ruling: “What seems to me to make the fast track rules structurally unfair is the serious procedural disadvantage which comes from the abbreviated timetable and curtailed case management powers, together with the imposition of this disadvantage on the (asylum seeker)...”
The ruling is a groundbreaking victory for the charity Detention Action, set up in 1993 to support and campaign on behalf of individuals held in immigration centres.
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.”
A Government spokesman said: “We are disappointed by this judgment and will be appealing.
“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.”
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