Minister for Immigration James Brokenshire has today announced the suspension of the Detained Fast Track asylum process in its entirety, following a series of successful legal challenges brought by Detention Action.
The announcement follows the suspension of the appeals stage of the Fast Track by the Court of Appeal on Friday.
The Minister said:
‘Recently the system has come under significant legal challenge, including on the appeals stage of the process. Risks surrounding the safeguards within the system for particularly vulnerable applicants have also been identified to the extent that we cannot be certain of the level of risk of unfairness to certain vulnerable applicants who may enter DFT.
‘In light of these issues, I have decided to temporarily suspend the operation of the detained fast track policy. I hope this pause to be short in duration, perhaps only a matter of weeks, but I will only resume operation of this policy when I am sure the right structures are in place to minimise any risk of unfairness.’
The Fast Track has been found to be unlawful three times by the British courts, in litigation brought by Detention Action. Most recently, the High Court this month quashed the procedural rules governing the Detained Fast Track asylum appeals, under which appeals are processed according to severely truncated timescales. Mr Justice Nicol concluded that the Fast Track Rules ‘do incorporate structural unfairness’, and were therefore unlawful.
Detention Action Director Jerome Phelps said:
‘We welcome this announcement. We hope that today will mark the end of the UK’s routine detention of asylum-seekers. It is a further step away from the systematic overuse of detention that was rightly criticised by a cross-party parliamentary inquiry this year. 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.’
Bamidele, a member of the Freed Voices group, whose asylum claim was initially heard and rejected on the Detained Fast Track, said:
“The Detained Fast Track is nothing short of a kangaroo court. I received no fair trial, the result was fixed from the moment I walked in the room. The stress left my health in tatters. So much so, that they eventually had to release me. Four years later, with time to properly make my case, I was given leave to remain. The Detained Fast Track belongs on the scrapheap of UK human rights history.”
The Detained Fast Track allowed the Home Office to detain asylum-seekers simply for claiming asylum, and keep them in detention throughout an accelerated asylum process. The courts have found that the lack of time to prepare appeals from detention constituted a serious disadvantage for asylum-seekers, while safeguards were inadequate to prevent vulnerable people from being wrongly fast tracked.
Any asylum seeker, from any country, could be placed on the Detained Fast Track if the Home Office considers that their case can be decided quickly. The Fast Track was not restricted to cases considered weak or without merit. Many asylum-seekers on the Fast Track were from countries experiencing conflict or violence like Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.