“Fast Track to Despair” report published

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Detention Action has published a new report, showing that the government’s policy of detaining asylum seekers in immigration removal centres while their asylum applications are processed is dysfunctional, ineffective and can lead to a deprivation of liberty for weeks or months. The report is available here.

The report “Fast Track to Despair”, examines the experience of asylum seekers who are put on the UK Border Agency’s ‘Detained Fast Track’.

The UK is one of the few countries in the world which detains people from the moment they claim asylum to the minute they are removed from the country. Challenges have been brought to the European Court of Human Rights where judges have expressed concern but ultimately ruled that detention would be acceptable for around seven days in low security settings.

UK government policy now states that from arrival at a detention centre the asylum process should take 22 days. In contrast, the evidence that Detention Action gathered from detainees shows over half of the people they interviewed were detained, mostly without access to legal advice, for two weeks, and one quarter were detained for 3 weeks before the asylum process had even started.

Detained Fast Track has a 99 per cent refusal rate, compared to 72 per cent for decisions that are made in the community. People have two days to appeal the decision. 60 per cent of people are dropped by their solicitors and do not have legal representatives during their appeals.

Approximately six per cent of asylum seekers who enter the UK are placed on the “Detained Fast Track,” a process introduced over a decade ago to deal with rocketing asylum claims and a large backlog of cases. The concept was to detain people with “straight forward” cases for short periods of time in low security settings in order to make fast removal administratively easier for the government.

But Harmondsworth detention centre, near Heathrow, has recently opened new wings equivalent to a Category B high security prison. And although the Detained Fast Track is intended for “straight forward” cases, an asylum seeker from any country can be placed in detention while their claim is processed. Currently the largest numbers of people on Fast Track are from Afghanistan.

Detention Action believes that the government policy of routinely depriving people of their liberty for weeks and months simply for claiming asylum for the government’s administrative convenience is one that must be abolished. It is outdated, unfair and expensive. The perceived problem it was designed to address, high levels of asylum claims, no longer exists. Locking up asylum seekers in high security detention centres is not needed for a fast asylum process and needlessly costs people their freedom.

If you would like to take action on this important issue, you can write to your MP to raise it. An example letter/email can be found here that you can amend. You might also like to include the Executive Summary of the report. You can check who your MP is here . Please do let us know what response you get from your MP.