I was about to conclude by saying that paragraphs (a) and (c) of subsection (7) suffice to capture every scenario. Removing paragraph (b) does not affect how the clause operates or who it impacts. I commend the amendments and the clause to the Committee.
We intend to oppose the clause standing part of the Bill. The clause is an entirely new provision. Its stated aim is to reduce the extent to which people may frustrate removals through sequential or unmeritorious claims, appeals or legal action. It does so by providing for a priority removal notice, or PRN, to be served on anyone who is liable for removal or for deportation. Factors might include where a person has previously made a human rights or protection claim.
According to the explanatory notes, subsection (3) defines a PRN. It states that the notice imposes a duty on the claimant to provide a statement setting out the reasons for wishing to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, any grounds on which they should be permitted to do so, and any grounds on which they should not be removed or required to leave the United Kingdom. The notice also requires them to provide any information relating to being a victim of slavery or human trafficking as defined by clause 46.
The notice also requires them to provide any evidence in support of any reasons, grounds or information. The statement, grounds, information and evidence must be provided before the PRN cut-off date included within the notice. Intended as a warning to the person that they are being prioritised for removal, the notice gives them a period of time—the cut-off period—within which to access legal advice and to inform the Home Office of any grounds or evidence that they want to provide in support of a claim to be allowed to remain in the UK.
The clause and the introduction of priority removal notices are part of wider proposals to fast-track claims and appeals, and to create a one-stop process for claims to asylum to be brought and considered together in a single assessment up front. The consequences of the clauses related to priority removal notices will make it harder for people to bring evidence after making an initial asylum claim and penalise delayed disclosure. Indeed, if anything required by the PRN is provided after the specified cut-off date, a decision maker—when determining a protection or human rights claim, or making a decision as to whether the person is a potential or actual victim of trafficking—will treat it with scepticism and it will be considered damaging to the person’s credibility and their claim.
The requirements related to the PRN are extensive. It requires all manner of claims and evidence to be provided, covering all grounds for resisting removal and all evidence in support. When implemented, that could have incredibly damaging consequences for people seeking asylum, as it requires them to provide extensive supporting evidence by a specified date. For example, it will seriously disadvantage vulnerable people and victims, such as those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or those who have been trafficked, as well as those who are LGBTQ, as I have mentioned previously.
The introduction of priority removal notices fails to acknowledge the reality of situations that people seeking asylum may encounter. There are many reasons that evidence may be provided late but in earnest, as we have explored already, for example with traumatised victims. The ultimate consequence of people not being able properly to present evidence relating to their claim, or being deemed to lack credibility as a result of failing to present such evidence on time, is that claims may be rejected and people may be wrongly subject to removal. The Opposition are very concerned that these measures may give rise to a significant risk of refoulement and will consequently abandon the UK’s obligations under international law.
In short, the proposals are unacceptable. They form a package of measures that seek to create a one-stop process for asylum claims and fail to do so in a fair or humane way. They are widely condemned by the sector. The Opposition are vehemently opposed to the introduction of priority removal notices and, when they are taken in conjunction with the series of clauses in part 2, are incredibly concerned about these measures. Its potentially strict application risks having a severe impact on asylum seekers and refugees, in terms of both procedural fairness and ensuring that people are protected by the refugee convention. We therefore oppose the clause.