Court suspends UK’s ‘unfair’ fast-track asylum appeals system

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Court of Appeal has ordered the suspension of the UK’s ‘fast-track’ system for asylum seeker appeals – which could be good news for LGBT asylum seekers battling deportation.

High Court Justice Nicol ruled earlier this month that the Home Office’s system to “fast track” cases it believes have no merit contained “structurally unfairness”.

The Detained Fast Track system plays a key role in removal of asylum seekers, allowing the government to seek removal in as little as 22 days – and in the past has been strongly criticized by groups that represent LGBT asylum seekers, who say it does not give them long enough to prepare their case.

The ruling was initially stayed as the government plans to appeal the verdict – but today the Court of Appeal lifted the stay, meaning that the unlawful system must be suspended

Lord Justice Sullivan said that if cases continued to be dealt with by the process, they could end up having to be heard again, which would be a “very horrible waste of money”.

The suspension of the system will have a huge impact on LGBT people who are currently battling deportation under the system.

Paul Dillane, Executive Director of UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, commented: “I am delighted asylum seekers will no longer face a detained appeals process that is so flagrantly unfair.

“This is especially good news for LGBT asylum seekers who are particularly prejudiced in Detained Fast Track. LGBT claims are inherently complex yet increasing numbers of our clients are detained in order for their asylum claims to be processed.”

“Well-documented poor standards of decision-making means many genuine refugees are wrongly refused asylum including as a result of their inability to access often crucial evidence which exists outside of detention. Furthermore, in these brutal detention centres LGBT people are regularly subjected to appalling bullying, abuse and harassment.”

“Five years ago, the Coalition Government promised to protect LGBT asylum seekers who face persecution but they failed to deliver.

“This is further evidence that the asylum system in the UK requires fundamental reform in order to ensure people whose lives are at risk are given the protection to which they are entitled.”

Edwin Sesange of the Ugandan Out & Proud Diamond Group said previously the verdict creates hope of a fairer trial for Ugandans who are fleeing their country over homophobia.

He told PinkNews: “This is good news for many of our LGBTI asylum seekers.

“We have supported many LGB asylum seekers in that now unlawful system, but we have always had many difficulties. Others lost their cases because they couldn’t gather every evidence they needed within the given time limit.

“Many people who lost their cases within fast track appeal have won their cases within the other system.

“We urge the government to introduce a fairly and lawful system, and also review all the cases of all those LGBT and other asylum seekers that lost their cases in that system.”

Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May previously carried out a review of the way that LGBT cases are handled and implemented minor reforms – but asylum groups claim the system is still “extremely unfair”.