Until the success of our legal challenge in 2015, many people arriving in the UK to claim asylum were detained immediately. Under the Detained Fast Track or ‘DFT’, their asylum claims were processed while they were locked up in high security immigration detention centres.
What is the DFT?
The DFT was a process for deciding asylum claims whilst the person was in detention, to accelerated time-scales.
The DFT was designed for asylum claims that were considered suitable for a quick decision. This was problematic because the decision to fast-track an asylum case was made when very little was 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, were regularly detained on the DFT.
The screening process was often inadequate, the questions asked did not address the details of the person’s case and were unlikely to elicit information that would demonstrate unsuitability, such as experience of torture, trafficking or mental ill health. Poor quality Rule 35 reports, which require detention centre medical staff to report any person who may have been a victim of torture, proved to be an ineffective safeguard.
Wrongly entering the DFT had a devastating effects on a vulnerable person’s chances of successfully claiming asylum. Many years, the Home Office refused 99% of asylum claims which they placed on the DFT.
Between 2013 and 2015, Detention Action brought a challenge to the legality of the DFT in the courts. We believed that people whose claims were heard from detention were not dealt with fairly, and that the nature of the DFT process prevented them from having their asylum claims properly considered. We were successful. The Court of Appeal found that the judicial rules setting the tight timescales for asylum-seekers to make appeals were unlawful and ‘ultra vires’ and that the strict time limits in and of themselves were ‘structurally unfair’.
You can find out more about the legal challenge here.
In January 2017, the High Court found that asylum-seekers on the DFT had been denied justice in detention for ten years. The ruling was further recognition that the DFT allowed thousands of people to be deported without ever having a lawful hearing of their case. Find out more here.
Report and Briefings
We published the ‘Fast Track to Despair’ report in 2011, based on evidence and testimony from the asylum-seekers in detention whom we were supporting.
Uncovering long periods in which asylum seekers were detained unnecessarily at the start of the process, the report undermined the rationale for a ‘fast’ detained 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 people’s ability to prepare an asylum claim.