Asylum system to be shaken up as Government set to raise the bar on appeals

Charles Hymas
·3-min read
Border Force officials transport migrants, that have been intercepted in the English Channel, in order to process them - Luke Dray/Getty Images Europe
Border Force officials transport migrants, that have been intercepted in the English Channel, in order to process them - Luke Dray/Getty Images Europe

Asylum seekers’ rights to appeal are to be curbed in a bid to slash the number of spurious claims “without any merit” that clog up the courts, under reforms unveiled on Monday evening.

Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts, Chris Philp announced the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will raise the bar for appeals so they will only be allowed if there is an “exceptional public interest.”

It is the first legal move by the Government to shake up an asylum system that Home Secretary Priti Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have claimed is “broken.”

Ministers have been frustrated by the number of legal appeals, often at the last minute, that have prevented the removal of failed asylum seekers and have promised an overhaul the system to speed up their removal.

Mr Philp cited figures which showed even appeals judged by lower courts to be “totally without merit” still reached the Court of Appeal only to be eventually thrown out.

Of the 67 applications for judicial review that reached the Court of Appeal in 2019 and were judged to be of “no merit,”  only 3 (roughly 4 percent) were granted permission, “despite considerable judicial time being used to consider them,” he said.

“Furthermore, of those certified cases which were granted permission to appeal, none succeeded at the substantive appeal stage,” he added.

Of 561 cases that were seeking leave to appeal in the upper tribunal in 2019, just 27 were successful – fewer than five per cent.

Unveiling a consultation paper detailing the proposed changes, Mr Philp said the current system was wasting significant amounts of court time with numerous appeals that could have been settled far earlier.

He said: “Under the current system judges in the tribunals and Court of Appeal can spend significant time reviewing an individual case on the same grounds of appeal on multiple occasions, and in the majority of cases reaching the same decision.

 Home Secretary Priti Patel has vowed to tackle “litigious” human rights claimants who seek to delay their deportation from Britain after their cases are refused - Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images
Home Secretary Priti Patel has vowed to tackle “litigious” human rights claimants who seek to delay their deportation from Britain after their cases are refused - Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

“This paper sets out our proposals for reform and seeks views on how to make sure that weak or hopeless cases are filtered out at an early stage so that genuine claims can proceed quickly and efficiently to a conclusion.

“Our aim in issuing this consultation is to gather additional evidence to help Government formulate policy to ensure cases are dealt with fairly, efficiently and swiftly.”

The consultation proposes to end the right of appeal from the upper tribunal to the Court of Appeal except “for reasons of exceptional public interest,” and to block any “no merit” cases to the Court of Appeal.

A wider reform of the asylum system is expected in the New Year with Home Secretary Priti Patel pledging to tackle “litigious” human rights claimants who seek to delay their deportation from Britain after their cases are refused.

It is also expected to make it more difficult for foreign criminals to avoid deportation by lodging an asylum claim.

It is understood a Bill, to be introduced early in the New Year, will force judges to place more weight on asylum seekers’ criminal records.

Currently, serious criminals including killers and rapists trump deportation orders in the courts by claiming their human rights will be infringed if they are sent back to their home countries.

Ms Patel is also planning to tighten the appeals system for non-criminal claimants. They will have to lodge all their arguments at the beginning of a case so they cannot make a series of legal claims to delay deportation.

The moves to reform asylum have been accelerated by the migrants crisis in the Channel where 8,500 have reached the UK this year, seven times the number in the whole of last year.