Accelerated asylum appeals put speed before justice

Accelerating the appeals process for people seeking asylum who have been detained would risk undermining justice and fairness, the Law Society of England and Wales said today, urging the Tribunal Procedure Committee to reject plans put forward by ministers.

Law Society vice president Joe Egan said: “Rushing detained asylum and immigration appeals risks unjust decisions and unlawful removals.

“In an area of law where the stakes for appellants are so high, we must maintain an impeccable standard of fairness.

“There must be effective judicial oversight of asylum and immigration appeals. Quicker, fairer hearings can be achieved under the existing rules with a better resourced appeal system.”

Home Office data has revealed more than 40% of asylum and immigration appeals are successful, underlining the importance of an accessible and fair appeals system.

Joe Egan said: “It is for the courts to decide the merits of each case. An administrative decision by the Executive to fast track an appeal would pre-empt the outcome, remove vital judicial oversight, disenfranchise the appellant and inevitably prejudice the case.”

The proposed scheme, which extends from the 12 days ruled unfair in 2015 to 25 days, imposes a severely restricted timetable for the determination of often complex asylum appeals. As appellants would be detained during this time, they would have limited access to their solicitor, further undermining their ability to assert their rights.

Nor do the government proposals adequately show how vulnerable people will be protected or screened out of the fast track scheme. For example, it would be extremely damaging to detain someone with mental health issues, who has been tortured or raped.

Joe Egan added: “There is a real risk that speed would prejudice the integrity of the appeal process for people who are often extremely vulnerable and anxious, who may have suffered a terrifying ordeal.”
18 April 2017

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