Many people arriving in the UK are detained from the minute after they claim asylum in the UK. Their entire asylum claim is processed while they are locked in a high security immigration detention centre. This system is called the ‘Detained Fast Track’ but is often referred to as the ‘DFT’.
What is the DFT?
The DFT is a process for deciding asylum claims whilst the asylum-seeker is in detention, to accelerated time-scales.
The DFT is designed for asylum claims that are considered to be suitable for a quick decision. However, the decision to fast-track an asylum case is made when very little is known about the person’s situation. As a result, vulnerable people with complex cases, including victims of torture, trafficking, gender-based violence and homophobic persecution, are regularly detained on the DFT.
The criteria for suitability for the DFT have gradually widened: there is no longer a nationality list of suitable countries, for example. The screening process simply does not ensure that unsuitable cases are excluded from the DFT, because the questions asked do not address the details of the person’s case and are unlikely to elicit information that would demonstrate unsuitability, such as experience of torture, trafficking or mental ill health. Wrongly entering the DFT can have devastating effects on a vulnerable person’s chances of asylum. The Home Office refuses 99% of asylum claims which they have placed on the DFT.
The safeguards that should ensure that unsuitable cases are taken out of the DFT are ineffective. Rule 35 of the Detention Centre Rules requires detention centre medical staff to report on any person for whom detention is harmful or who may have been a victim of torture. However, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration and the HM Inspectorate of Prisons have criticized the poor quality of the reports and of the responses from Home Office case owners.
Last year, Detention Action took the government to the High Court to challenge the Detained Fast Track. We believed that people whose claims are heard from detention were not dealt with fairly, and the decision to detain them was unreasonable, disproportionate and violated their right to liberty. We won.
You can find out more about how are legal challenge went, here.
Report and Briefings
After consultation with our client-base about the key issues across the UK’s detention estate they felt needed addressing, we published the ‘Fast Track to Despair’ report in 2011.
Uncovering long periods in which asylum seekers are detained unnecessarily at the start of the process, the report essentially undermined the rational for a ‘fast’ asylum process. The tight timescales when the process starts, combined with the high security detention conditions and the confusion experienced by those trapped in the system, severely inhibited their ability to prepare an asylum claim.