3 July 2015

James Brokenshire, UK’s Minister for Security and Immigration, has announced that he would ‘temporarily suspend’ the operation of the Detained Fast Track system until ‘the right structures are in place to minimise any risk of unfairness’.

This follows a number of successful legal challenges brought by the NGO, Detention Action. Its litigation led to the High Court finding that the Detained Fast Track rules for appeals were ‘structurally unfair’ and therefore unlawful. However, a ‘stay’ was put on the order suspending the system in order to avoid inconvenience to the UK government, who will appeal the judgment.

Detention Action’s application to have the ‘stay’ lifted was granted by the Court of Appeal last week, on the basis that the reputation of the justice system might suffer if cases were heard under an unlawful process, and it would be a “very horrible waste of money” if cases had to be heard again.

The Home Office announcement relates to the entire Detained Fast Track system, not just the appeals part, which had been found unlawful. The Minister explained that the legal challenges had highlighted risks in the functioning of the safeguards that were being used to identify vulnerable applicants, and, consequently, he could not be certain that they received a fair hearing. All the individuals who were being detained under these procedures will have their detention urgently reviewed and will only continue to be detained if they meet the general detention criteria. It is thought that around 800 cases will be reviewed, leading to the release of approximately 100 people.  

Detention Action Director, Jerome Phelps, welcomed the announcement, stating that “We hope that the Home Office will accept the judgements of the courts and work with civil society to build an asylum system that is both fast and fair, with alternatives to detention that are both cheaper and more just.”

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 03 July 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.