The fast-track system
Under the ‘Detained Fast Track’ (DFT) procedure, people seeking asylum who are in the UK are interviewed by Home Office officials following which a decision is made as to whether their case can be decided quickly and is suitable for ‘fast-tracking’. Often this decision is made on the basis of the person’s country of origin.
If a claim is to be fast-tracked, the asylum-seeker will be detained while waiting for their claim to be determined. A ‘fast-tracked’ claim will usually take about two weeks to be finally determined.
Under the ‘Detained Non Suspensive Appeal’ (DNSA) procedure a person will be detained for between 10 and 14 days while their asylum claim is determined, and at the end of this process the person has no right of appeal in the UK to an independent court or tribunal. People from certain listed countries (including over 20 countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone will be automatically routed into this procedure, unless it can be shown (on arrival) that their claim is not clearly unfounded.
There are a number of problems with these fast-track detention procedures. Liberty’s two main concerns are that:
- Refugee applicants are being detained simply on the basis of administrative convenience; and
- Many asylum seekers are being denied the right to a full and fair consideration of their claim.
Deprived of liberty for administrative convenience
Liberty believes that the detention of asylum seekers for mere administrative convenience violates the right to liberty as protected under Article 5 of the Human Rights Act. Depriving anyone of their liberty can only be legitimately justified when it is necessary rather than convenient.
Appropriateness of ‘fast-tracking’ claims
A decision to fast-track a claim is made at an initial screening interview, at which time no detailed questions are asked about the person’s basis for asylum.
A claim will be fast-tracked if the immigration official decides the case is ‘straight-forward’ - yet, the information needed to decide whether a case is appropriate for fast-tracking is only available once a full asylum interview has taken place, which occurs after a decision is made on fast-tracking.
People seeking asylum from listed countries must be routed into the detained non-suspensive appeal procedure (and therefore denied the right of appeal in the UK) unless it can be shown on arrival that the application ‘is not clearly unfounded’.
Home Office guidelines provide very limited exceptions about when a claim is not suitable for fast-track detention. This includes claims by unaccompanied children, those requiring 24-hour care and those who have independent evidence that they have been trafficked or subjected to torture.
However, in practice, if a person arriving in the UK has no ‘independent evidence’ demonstrating they have been trafficked or tortured (which is generally unlikely for those just arriving having fled torture or their captors), they are often subjected to the detained fast-track process.
Under the fast-track process a person will be detained and will be required (usually the next day) to present their full case to immigration officials. A legal representative will be appointed and have less than one day in which to interview their client, potentially translate any relevant documents, commission any expert evidence and present the case.
A decision on the asylum application is then generally given the following day. Under this procedure more than 90 per cent of claims are refused.
Under the DFT procedure the refugee claimant has two days in which to lodge an appeal with the Appeals Immigration Tribunal, which will usually be heard within one week (while the person remains in detention). Many applicants are refused legal aid for this process, while the Home Office will always be legally represented. People who are routed through the DNSA procedure have no right of appeal while in the UK and if their claim is unsuccessful are immediately returned to their country of origin.
Liberty believes many complex claims are incorrectly sent through the fast-track process. Trafficked women, torture victims and sufferers of sexual abuse and domestic violence, have all been through this system. With claims being made, assessed, decided and appeals (if possible) determined in the space of around one week, many complex and sensitive claims are rushed through and genuine refugees are denied entry, as this detailed Human Rights Watch report shows. Denying a right of appeal in the UK to many people denies the right to procedural fairness.
We believe all asylum claims should be processed in the community with sufficient time given to fully consider each claim, putting an end to the fast-track system of detention.