9 January 2015

In a new ruling on the UK’s Detained Fast Track system, the UK Court of Appeal has found that the Secretary of State’s policy of detaining asylum seekers who are not at risk of absconding whilst their appeals are pending is unlawful. In addition, the Court found that if it had been necessary to decide on the general legality of detention during appeal under this system, it would have ruled that the current policy of detaining asylum seekers during their appeals cannot be said to be justified.

In response to arguments brought before the court by the NGO Detention Action relating to the nature and legality of the policy, the Court found that whilst there is a current policy to detain pending an appeal and where a decision can be made quickly, the way this is presented in the Detained Fast Track Guidance is not clear and lacks transparency. In light of the Court’s finding as to the lack of clarity in the guidelines, the Court subsequently held that it was not necessary to further explore whether the policy is justified with regards to UK domestic law. Nevertheless, in the Court’s opinion, detaining an applicant pending their appeal where a quick decision can be made is not justified and unlawful under the circumstances. The Court submits that detention in the appeal stage would only be lawful if all reasonable alternatives to detention are considered before detention is authorised and that there are strong grounds for believing that a person will not comply with the conditions of release.

In July last year, the UK’s Detained Fast Track system was ruled unlawful because asylum seekers detained under this procedure are not provided with legal assistance quickly enough, leaving insufficient time, often less than 24 hours, to prepare for the substantive asylum interview.


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 This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 9 January 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.