Fast-track claimants ‘denied justice’

Asylum seekers whose claims are processed at Harmondsworth or Yarls Wood detention centres are being denied a fair chance to win their cases because the pro­cess takes so long, campaigners say.

Government figures show that asylum seekers detained for fast-tracking at the two centres were significantly less likely to succeed than the average last year (see “Success rates“).

The charity, Bail for Immigration Detainees, slammed the procedure.

Assistant director Sarah Cutler said: “We think it’s down to the speed of the process and the fact that detained fast-track claimants are often not represented on appeals.”

Under the timetable for the fast track, initial decisions are supposed to be served within three days, after which claimants have two days to appeal. In 2006-7, 61% of new applicants received initial decisions within two months.

Cutler said this meant fast-track detainees had insufficient time to prepare their cases and often were not represented at appeal because they were denied legal aid – as this is provided only to cases with a fair chance of success.

She added: “They don’t have the time to prepare the evidence [to pass the merits test] for appeal.”

Bid made similar criticisms in a report published last July on Harmondsworth, which looked at 22 fast track cases, 60% of which were not represented on appeal.

Cutler added that the screening process, under which claimants are placed on the fast-track schemes if their claims can be processed quickly, could not distinguish between more or less-founded claims, so this could not explain the discrepancy in success rates.

A Home Office spokesperson said the fast track process had been found to be lawful in a judicial review. “Far from claimants being set up to fail, detained fast track operates flexibly. A significant number of cases are taken out of the pro­cess when it becomes apparent that additional evidence, medical reports etc are required to make a fair and just decision.”

Success rates

During 2006, just 1% of 935 men detained under the Harmondsworth fast track scheme were granted asylum or leave to remain overall, the figure was 21%. Just 4% of Harmondsworth and 6% of Yarls Wood appeals succeeded, compared with 22% overall.

Asylum statistics 2006

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Mithran Samuel


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