Article by Ramzan Sharif – Solicitor at Fountain Solicitors
The Home Office has operated what it terms a ‘Fast Track’ detention process for over a decade. This involves detaining asylum seekers for the sole reason that they have claimed asylum and drastically speeding up their claims. This decision is often based on the applicant’s country of origin. A decision is often made in a matter of days and if the claim is refused (which the vast majority are) an appeal is heard in 3 days. During these 3 days, the applicant’s and their solicitors (if they have had the time to instruct a solicitor whilst in detention) must prepare witness statements, obtain expert reports and supporting evidence and prepare Court bundles.
On 12th June 2015, the High Court ruled that this Fast Track process was unlawful after a challenge to the process was lodged by campaign group Detention Action. Mr. Justice Nicol ruled that applicants were unable to properly prepare their cases and that lawyers were put in an unfair position. Those applicants placed under Fast Track were found to be at a serious procedural disadvantage particularly in relation to their appeals. The legality of the Home Office setting a timescale for an appeal was also called into question as the Home Office would be the Defendant to the proceedings.
The Home Office intends to appeal the decision further but in the meantime has, as of 2nd July 2015, suspended all Fast Track cases and should as a result be releasing all of those detained solely under this process.
In our experience, the Fast Track process has led to many applicants who have not had their cases fairly determined as they simply have not had the chance to obtain all of the supporting evidence and prepare for their appeal. We have also witnessed many vulnerable applicants detained who for example have been victims of trafficking and torture in their home country. Many have only recently fled terrible conditions and are still suffering both mentally and physically only to find themselves detained with limited access to legal advice and medical support.
We are currently working with victims of this process to secure their release and once released, have their cases properly determined.
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