‘Fast Track’ deportations illegal

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The Court of Appeal has upheld a ruling declaring the ‘Detained Fast Track’ system for asylum seekers to be unlawful and ‘potentially disastrous’.

In June, the High Court found that detaining asylum seekers and speeding through their appeals and expulsion was ‘wrong’. That decision has now been backed by senior judges who said yesterday that the ‘Detained Fast Track’ system did not take into account the complexity of claims.

The government said it was disappointed with the outcome and would be seeking further permission to appeal. Ministers have already suspended Detained Fast Track but had told MPs they wanted to re-launch the system within weeks.

They will now seek to appeal to the Supreme Court. The decision could have major implications for hundreds of cases where applicants for asylum have lost their case during an accelerated legal process, while being held in detention.

Some 323 asylum seekers have been released from detention in the past month, 200 of whom had already had their claims rejected. In Wednesday’s ruling, Lord Dyson, the Master of the Rolls, said truncating the time available for appeals was ‘systemically unfair’.

The Detained Fast Track system played a key role in immigration removals and could lead to someone leaving the country in about 22 days. The system was created in 2003, and was applied to 4,300 asylum seekers in 2013. Immigration officers could order the detention of any asylum seeker whose case they thought would result in a quick ruling.

The system was sometimes used to handle clandestine migrants, such as those entering via the English Channel ports, whom officials thought had no case for refuge. But a string of legal challenges over the past year eroded the power after complaints that many of those being put through the system had suffered torture or had other justified cases for humanitarian protection.

Last month, Mr Justice Nicol ruled in the High Court that fast tracking appeals involved ‘structural unfairness’ because claimants could not properly prepare their case, or access expert help, while in detention.

And three weeks ago, ahead of a related case, ministers suspended the entire system, telling Parliament they could not be sure that vulnerable applicants were being dealt with fairly.