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Home Office to challenge High Court ruling to return wrongly deported asylum seeker

Exclusive: Campaigners brand decision an attempt to 'cover up the painful human cost of their unlawful policy'

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 03 July 2019 22:59 BST
Why is the Home Office getting so many immigration decisions wrong?

The Home Office is challenging a High Court ruling that a gay woman deported from the UK five years ago should be allowed to return.

The government was ordered in an unprecedented ruling last week to facilitate the return of a Ugandan asylum seeker after a judge ruled the decision to reject her claim was unlawful.

The 25-year-old woman, known only as PN, arrived in the UK in 2011 and claimed asylum on the basis that she was a lesbian and would be at risk of persecution in Uganda. She was refused and removed in 2013 on the grounds that the Home Office did not believe she was gay.

But the High Court ruled the government’s decision to refuse her claim was reached by an unfair process which did not give her sufficient time to obtain evidence to support her case – in a ruling lawyers said could pave the way for thousands of similar challenges.

However, the Home Office has now sought permission to appeal this decision in court, in what has been branded a bid to “cover-up” the human cost of an unlawful policy.

PN is one of thousands of asylum seekers whose immigration cases were decided under the Home Office’s “detained fast-track” system, which was introduced in 2005 and came to an end in 2015 after the High Court ruled that it was “structurally unfair”. Her case was the first successful appeal allowing a claimant to return to the UK.

Karen Doyle, from campaign group Movement for Justice, which has been supporting PN from the UK since she was removed to Uganda, said the Home Office’s decision to obstruct her return was an attempt to “cover up the painful human cost of their unlawful policy” and was “further damaging her health and putting her in danger”.

She said that in the almost six years PN had been in Uganda she had suffered “fear, isolation and periods of homelessness”, and that she had been frightened to go to the state hospital for her mental health problems because she felt unable to talk about what she had been through or her sexuality for fear of being reported to authorities as a lesbian.

Ms Doyle added: “The fast-track system has been thoroughly discredited and found unlawful. For over 10 years asylum seekers were subject to an inhuman system that denied people the time to adequately present their case. This resulted in many wrongful removals of those at risk of persecution, including LGBT+ people.

“It is rank hypocrisy for the Home Office to wrap itself in the Pride flag at the same time as appealing the return of a Ugandan lesbian who was prevented from proving her asylum case and removed by the now unlawful fast-track system.”

The court will now decide whether to accept the Home Office’s application to appeal the decision.

The detained fast-track system, which aimed to make asylum decisions within two weeks and required that people were kept in detention during the process, had a 99 per cent rejection rate. Many on the fast-track were from countries experiencing conflict or violence, such as Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

The court ruled in 2015 that the system did not allow enough time for lawyers to take instructions, prepare statements, translate documents and obtain evidence.

A government spokesperson said it would be inappropriate to comment while legal proceedings were ongoing.

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