11 July 2014
The UK’s ‘Detained Fast Track’ has been declared unlawful by the England and Wales High Court because asylum seekers detained under this procedure are not provided with legal assistance quickly enough, leaving insufficient time, often less than 24 hours, to prepare for the substantive asylum interview.
Asylum seekers are detained under the ‘Detained Fast Track’ procedure if the authorities consider that their claims can be determined quickly. According to the judge, prompt legal support would be able to “assist in the identification and removal of torture, trafficking and other potentially vulnerable cases, which the screening process [for the Detained Fast Track] is not well equipped to do”. This “crucial failing” leads the judge to conclude that the Detained Fast Track involves “an unacceptable risk of unfairness”.
“It is difficult to see why legal representation should not be organised the day after induction for those requiring it”, argues the judge. Substantive decisions are made within 10-14 days following allocation to the Detained Fast Track. The fact that legal advice is provided too close to the substantive interview “means that in too high a proportion of cases, and in particular for those which might be sensitive, the conscientious lawyer does not have time to do properly what may need doing”.
The judge found other aspects of the Detained Fast Track to be lawful. According to the judgement, the procedure is in accordance with UK legislation, the EU Asylum Procedures and Reception Conditions Directives, and the European Convention on Human Rights; the recent decision to keep asylum seekers detained pending their appeal does not render the Detained Fast Track unlawful; the basic criterion for allocation to the Detained Fast Track, i.e. suitable for a quick but fair decision, is lawful; the decision not to expressly exclude certain categories of vulnerable persons, such as alleged victims of female genital mutilation, is lawful; the length of the period in detention is lawful; the process does not discriminate against women applicants.
The judicial review of the Detained Fast Track was brought by UK NGO Detention Action.
This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 11 July 2014.
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