Home Office suspends ‘unfair’ asylum system after court ruling

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Home Office has suspended an appeals system for asylum seekers – after a court ruled it was unlawful and unfair.

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

The Detained Fast Track system often plays a key role in removal of LGBT asylum seekers, allowing the government to seek removal in as little as 22 days. 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 and is biased against them.

The ruling was initially stayed as the government plans to appeal the verdict – but after the Court of Appeal lifted the stay, the Home Office has this week suspended the system entirely.

Ordering the temporary suspension of the system, immigration minister James Brokenshire said: “Recently the system has come under significant legal challenge, including on the appeals stage of the process.

“Risks surrounding the safeguards within the system for particularly vulnerable applicants have also been identified to the extent that we cannot be certain of the level of risk of unfairness to certain vulnerable applicants who may enter DFT.

“In light of these issues, I have decided to temporarily suspend the operation of the detained fast track policy. I hope this pause to be short in duration, perhaps only a matter of weeks, but I will only resume operation of this policy when I am sure the right structures are in place to minimise any risk of unfairness.”

More than 100 asylum seekers are thought to have been released following the decision.

Paul Dillane, Executive Director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, said: “I welcome the Minister’s decision to suspend the Detained Fast Track asylum process.

“Seeking asylum is not a crime yet every year thousands of asylum seekers are indefinitely detained and their claims refused at breakneck speeds in a system which is flagrantly unfair.”

“Detained Fast Track is especially prejudicial for LGBT people fleeing persecution who are disproportionately refused asylum due to poor decision-making and their inability to access often crucial evidence which exists outside of detention.

“Furthermore, bullying, abuse and harassment of LGBT people is rife in these brutal detention centres.”

He added: “It is a grim irony of Detained Fast Track that LGBT asylum seekers are often simultaneously fighting to ‘prove’ to the Home Office their sexual or gender identity whilst struggling daily to hide the same from fellow detainees for fear of discrimination or violence.”

“I urge the Minister to acknowledge that the UK asylum system requires fundamental reform in in order to ensure people whose lives are at risk are given the protection to which they are entitled and so they are treated with dignity and respect.”