Clause 24 - Accelerated detained appeals

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 26 October 2021.

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Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 3:45, 26 October 2021

I understand the motivation behind amendment 45. However, the Government oppose the amendment, as it is contrary to our policy intention and would undermine the effective working of the accelerated detained appeals process.

The period of five working days strikes the right balance, achieving both speed and fairness. The detained fast-track rules put in place in 2003 and 2005 allowed only two days to appeal. The 2014 rules set the same time limit. The current procedure rules allow a non-detained migrant 14 days to lodge their appeal against a refusal decision.

On amendment 46, I can assure hon. Members that it is not necessary, as the Bill already achieves the objective sought. The Government’s aim is to ensure that cases only remain in the ADA where it is in the interests of justice for them to do so. The consideration of what is in the interests of justice is a matter of judicial discretion. Where a judge decides that it is not in the interests of justice to keep a case in the ADA process, we would expect that they would use their discretion to remove the case. The current wording of the Bill—“may” rather than “must”—is consistent with the drafting of the rules that govern all appeals considered in the immigration and asylum chamber.

For these reasons, I invite the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate to withdraw the amendments. On the detained fast track and wider points about the Government’s intentions, although the courts upheld the principle of an accelerated process for appeals made in detention, we have considered the legal challenges to the detained fast track carefully. We are confident that the new accelerated detained appeals route will ensure fairness as well as improving speed. All Home Office decisions to detain are made in accordance with the adults at risk in detention policy and reviewed by the independent detention gatekeeper. Changes made to the screening process, drawing on lessons learned, will enable us to identify appellants who are unsuitable for the accelerated detained appeals route at the earliest opportunity. Suitability will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and the tribunal will have the power to transfer a case out of the accelerated route if it considers that that is in the interests of justice to do so.

The timescales proposed for the accelerated route are longer than under the previous detained fast track. Appellants will have more time to seek legal advice and prepare their case. We are confident that the new route will provide sufficient opportunity to access legal advice. I am also conscious that Members are interested in what happens in the eventuality that a migrant misses the deadline to appeal a refusal decision. Provided that there are no other barriers to return, removal will be arranged. It is open to a migrant and/or their legal representatives to submit an appeal after the deadline and ask a judge to extend the time and admit the appeal late.

On new clause 7, the Government are committed to making the asylum appeals system faster, while maintaining fairness, ensuring access to justice and upholding the rule of law. In particular, it is right that appeals made from detention should be dealt with quickly, so that people are not deprived of their liberty for longer than is necessary. New clause 7 sets out a duty on the tribunal procedure committee to make rules for the provision of an accelerated detained appeals route. That will establish a fixed maximum timeframe for determining specific appeals brought while an individual is detained.

Currently, all immigration and asylum appeals are subject to the same procedure rules. Appeals involving detained appellants are prioritised by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service but there are no set timeframes. It often takes months for detained appeals to be determined, resulting in people being released from detention before their appeals are concluded.

Changes to procedure rules are subject to the tribunal procedure committee’s statutory consultation requirements and procedures. However, the Government’s intent is to ensure that straightforward appeals from detention are determined more quickly. Under a detained accelerated process all appellants will benefit from a quicker final determination of their immigration status, spending less time in limbo, and getting the certainty they need to move forward with their lives sooner.

Those whose appeals are successful will have their leave to remain confirmed earlier than if the standard procedure rules had been followed. Meanwhile those with no right to remain will be removed more quickly, as they can be detained throughout the process, which reduces the risk of absconding.

The courts have been clear in upholding the principle that an accelerated process for asylum seekers while detained, operated within certain safeguards, is entirely legal. I made that point earlier. We have considered the legal challenges to the previous detained fast track carefully and we are confident that the new accelerated detained appeals route will ensure fairness as well as improving speed. We will ensure, through regulations and guidance, that only suitable cases will be allocated to the accelerated route. Cases will be assessed for whether they are likely to be able to be decided fairly within the shorter timeframe, and individuals will be screened for vulnerability and other factors that may impact their ability to engage fairly with an accelerated process.

As an additional safeguard, the clause makes it clear that the tribunal can decide to remove cases from the accelerated route if it considers it is in the interests of justice to do so. The new accelerated detained appeals route will contribute significantly to the timeliness with which appeals are decided for those in immigration detention. It will allow us to swiftly remove from the country people found not to need protection, while those with valid claims can be released from detention more quickly.