20 February 2015

The new AIDA report on asylum procedures, reception and detention in the United Kingdom underlines, among other developments, the judicial developments in the UK regarding the detained fast-track policy.

The Court of Appeal held in December 2014 that it is unlawful to detain asylum seekers in the ‘fast-track procedure’, pending appeal, if the only grounds are that the authorities consider it will allow for a ‘quick procedure’ and that it is more convenient. The Court found that other reasons for detention must also exist, such as the risk of absconding.

Because the ‘detained fast-track procedure’ did not always allow for a proper opportunity for detained asylum seekers to get legal advice before their asylum interview, a July 2014 High Court judgment, on a case launched by NGO Detention Action, found that the system was not operating lawfully. Following this judgment, the UK government department for home affairs (Home Office) made adjustments to the operation of the procedure, including to ensure that the substantive interview takes places at least four days after a lawyer has been appointed to the case.

The report highlighted the fact that at the end of the third quarter of 2014, 425 migrants were detained in prisons for migration management purposes.

Further information on detention practice in the report shows that the National Health Service (NHS) has not contracted health care to specialist health providers but, rather, to private companies running detention centres and security escort services. The result is a great variation, between centres, in the quality and provision of health care services, including the identification and treatment of mental illness and distress.

In terms of the reception conditions in the UK, the report looks at the situation of destitute asylum seekers. A High Court judgment declared that the Immigration Minister’s failure to review the level of financial support paid to them was unlawful. The Immigration Minister then undertook a review into the matter, but announced that the rates of payment would anyway stay the same.

Free legal assistance to asylum seekers in the UK was further cut in 2014, after having already been restricted in April 2013 when a new Act came into force abolishing Legal Aid for most immigration cases. The new AIDA report shows how legal assistance is now generally not guaranteed for judicial review of asylum applications unless the court grants permission for the judicial review to go ahead. Therefore, solicitors must, at their own financial risk, undertake the preparatory work to apply for judicial review to the court. This makes it increasingly difficult for asylum seekers to find a lawyer who will apply for judicial review on their behalf.


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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 20 February 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.