UK High Court Finds Detained Fast Track Asylum System Unlawful

Posted by Melanie Nathan, July 09, 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 5.51.00 PMIn a landmark ruling in a case brought by Detention Action, the High Court has today found that the way the government operates the Detained Fast Track asylum system is unlawful.

Read the full judgment here and a summary briefing here.

The charity Detention Action challenged the operation of the Detained Fast Track (DFT) asylum process on the grounds that it is a fundamentally unfair process and detention within it is unlawful.

Detention Action argued that it creates a real risk that many asylum seekers with strong claims for protection are being sent back to face persecution or human rights violations.

Justice Ouseley, giving judgment, found that “the DFT as operated carries an unacceptably high risk of unfairness.” The Judge found that there is a range of serious failings within the system.

In this context, the unjustifiable delay in allocating lawyers means that the DFT as operated is unlawful.

He criticized the inadequate screening of asylum-seekers’ suitability for the DFT. He found that failings at various stages of the process meant that survivors of torture, victims of trafficking and other vulnerable people unsuitable for the DFT were not being adequately identified.

Detention Action’s Director Jerome Phelps said: “We are delighted that the High Court has recognized that asylum-seekers are being detained in an unlawful process. It is unfortunate that the government has spent years ignoring such warnings from UN and independent monitoring bodies. This is good news for people in detention facing return to torture, but it is also good news for British justice.”

Raj, a survivor of torture from Sri Lanka who was released from the Detained Fast Track last month, said: “The whole DFT process overwhelmed me. The fear of returning to Sri Lanka gave me flashbacks of my torture. No one told me what was going on. It felt like they had decided not to believe me even before we started the interview. It was like a show-trial. They just wanted me out of the room, out of the country, as fast as possible.”

Ivo Kuka, a torture survivor from Cameroon, who was refused asylum on the Detained Fast Track before eventually being recognized as a refugee, said: “I had less than 24 hours to provide evidence. They were sending me back with a death warrant. I was lucky and I campaigned hard and now I am a refugee. Many more have not been lucky. And justice should not depend on luck.”

Sonal Ghelani of the Migrants Law Project, the solicitor who acts for Detention Action, said: “Serious concerns regarding the operation of this process have been expressed, over a number of years, by respected organizations such as Detention Action and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The government failed to heed those concerns necessitating legal action by a small charity.

The Court has found that the DFT is an unlawful process. The government should now listen to what Detention Action, other charities, lawyers and UNHCR have been saying and consider carefully whether a process of determining claims for protection that involves the expense of detaining people who pose no risk to anyone is necessary.”

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