Clause 21 - Priority Removal Notices: Expediated Appeals

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 26th October 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Home Office) 2:45 pm, 26th October 2021

There is such welcome generosity from Conservative Members. The measures will do no such thing; all they will do is clog up the upper tribunal system, which I will address later.

The Bill’s system of penalisation includes curtailing appeal rights, as set out in clause 21. The clause creates an expedited appeal route for those who have been served with a priority removal notice and who have provided evidence or a claim after the PRN cut-off date. Most importantly, the right of the appeal will be limited to the upper tribunal.

According to the Law Society, the proposals would essentially result in single-tier appeals with increased pressure on judges and more appeals to the Court of Appeal, as well as undermining access to justice, which is crucial in asylum cases. The Government’s proposals on priority removal notices and expedited appeals risk impinging on people’s rights and access to justice. In many instances, asylum seekers are highly vulnerable and may experience difficulties when it comes to the legal intricacies of the asylum process—studying legal determinations, gathering evidence and preparing submissions for appeals, for instance.

It is also worth clarifying that when unfounded or repeat claims are made, accelerated procedures as part of the asylum process are necessary and important safeguards. The difficulty is that more complex cases—where there are legitimate reasons for evidence being provided at a later date, for example—may be included in those accelerated processes, with devastating consequences. The Committee has heard some of examples of that today.

The Committee heard from Adrian Berry of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association about clause 21 during our evidence session. It is worth revisiting his evidence and the severe concerns that he raised on 23 September. First, he spoke about the expedited appeal, which begins in the upper tribunal. Therefore those who introduce a claim for asylum and provide evidence after the cut-off date in a priority removal notice receive an expedited appeal and lose their right of appeal and a hearing in the first-tier tribunal. Secondly, he raised concerns that the upper tribunal hearing is final. There is no onward appeal to the Court of Appeal. That is wrong for a number of reasons.

Mistakes, unfortunately, do happen in asylum claims, but under the current provision, individuals would be left, in the words of Adrian Berry, “one shot” to appeal and correct the mistakes. The fact that the first instance tribunal decisions cannot be reviewed has serious implications for the rule of law. It also creates a wider time-pressured, accelerated decision-making process operating on the tribunal system, which is likely to have a negative effect on the quality of decisions made. That is well documented and an issue that we have touched on previously, but it is worth repeating for the benefit of the Committee.

Appeals have been rising for many years. Between 2016 and 2018, 57% of first-tier tribunal asylum appeals were dismissed. It was only 52% in 2019-20. The right of appeal is fundamental in protecting individuals’ rights and preventing potential miscarriages of justice.

I should like to cite an example to illustrate that point and wider concerns about the priority removal notices regime introduced in part 2. I will call my example AT, a Gambian national who unsuccessfully sought asylum in the UK. He was married to a Gambian woman who had been granted indefinite leave to remain in July 2016 as she was unable to return to Gambia. His wife was heavily pregnant with their child but their relationship had not been raised or considered by the Home Office as part of his asylum claim. He was given a “notice of liability to removal” and was detained after the notice period had ended. Before his detention, he was unsuccessful in securing an appointment with his solicitors.

During AT’s detention, his wife gave birth to their son—a British citizen. The Home Office refused AT’s human rights claim based on his family life, focusing on the late stage at which he raised it. He was removed from the UK before he could access legal advice and challenge that decision. His subsequent judicial review proceedings were successful and he was allowed to return to the UK to exercise his right of appeal to the first-tier tribunal against that decision. The Home Office subsequently conceded his article 8 family life claim, and granted him leave to stay in the UK with his wife and son. If the priority removal notice provisions of the Bill had been in force in this case, AT’s right of appeal, even after he had succeeded in a judicial review, would have been severely circumscribed. He would only have been able to appeal directly to the upper tribunal. The appeal would have been decided on an expedited basis and the tribunal would have been required to treat AT’s claim to a family life as lacking credibility. If the upper tribunal had found against him, he would have had no right of appeal to the Court of Appeal.

That case highlights some of the severe consequences of clause 21. Are Committee members, on all sides of the debate, happy to put speed over justice? That is what the Bill’s attempts to expedite appeals seeks to do, and without acknowledging the harm that that will cause. It risks people having their human rights violated as a result of a truncated appeals process for asylum claims.

Clause 21 has serious consequences for the rule of law, procedural fairness and the rights of individuals. It will inevitably lead to the wrong being decisions made that will then go unchallenged. Closing off avenues for appeals risks closing off access to justice. An incorrect decision can cost an individual their safety, security and livelihood. Therefore the clause presents an unacceptable risk of breaching the UK’s non-refoulement obligations under the refugee convention and the European convention on human rights. As such, the Opposition will oppose that clause 21 stand part of the Bill.