Proposed changes to the deportation appeals process may amount to stricter definitions for appeals on human rights grounds and other measures, making it harder for people seeking asylum to prevent their deportation.
This comes as Priti Patel has revealed huge overhauls to the asylum system to be announced this Wednesday in an op-ed for The Sun. The Home Office reports a large backlog of people whose asylum has been rejected, but have yet to be officially contacted about leaving the UK. Analysis suggests that due to the pandemic, there are currently 40,000 people awaiting deportation.
Home Secretary Priti Patel is investigating strategies to speed up the deportation process by tightening the rules regarding deportation appeals, according to reports. She believes some individuals are ‘diverting resources away from genuine victims of trafficking, persecution and serious harm – which is completely unacceptable.’
When a person’s asylum claim has been rejected, the Home Office must give the individual notice that they are liable for removal, and cannot deport them during this period. The notice period is a window in which the individual has the right to challenge their deportation with a legal appeal if they meet the eligibility criteria.
Many asylum seekers are eligible for deportation appeals under the grounds of a human rights claim, international protection claim, or if their refugee or humanitarian protection status has been revoked. The UK Human Rights Act and Modern Slavery Act offer some protection to those that may face inhumane treatment outside of the UK or are victims of human trafficking or modern slavery.
Several options have been proposed that would allow acceleration whilst aligning with current laws protecting the right to appeal. However, some of these options involve revising the legislation in place to protect human rights.
Many asylum seekers are eligible for deportation appeals under the grounds of a human rights claim, international protection claim
The proposals put forward by the Home Office would aim to clear the backlog by making the appeals process more difficult. Firstly, only one appeal attempt per individual would be allowed in the future.
A government source stated: ‘You get all sorts of claims from people [to overturn deportations]. In the future, you will have to bring them all in one go. It means that all grounds for protection will be raised upfront, which helps migrants and the courts by not having a long, drawn-out process. It also helps the taxpayer by saving money and freeing up judicial space.”
Alongside this suggested rule, it has been proposed that the Modern Slavery Act’s definitions be tightened to reduce the number of asylum seekers that are eligible for appeal.
Another tactic would be to similarly tighten the definitions of human rights grounds in asylum seekers cases. Only ‘exceptional circumstances’ would be granted the right to appeal. Which specific circumstances that would qualify as exceptional have not been elaborated on.
The proposals put forward by the Home Office would aim to clear the backlog by making the appeals process more difficult.
Labour politicians and human rights activists and campaigners are likely to challenge the proposals, as the government making alterations to the definitions set up to protect the vulnerable sets a dangerous precedent. Former Prime Minister Teresa May introduced the Modern Slavery Act act during her time as Home Secretary in 2015 and she has championed this cause as ‘the great human rights issue of our time.’
The Home Office is also exploring ways to disallow or put off migrants that have faced criminal charges in the UK from appealing their deportation decisions. As part of the new Sovereign Borders Bill, immigration lawyers may also face fees for unsuccessful appeals similar to the fixed recovery costs applied to personal injury lawyers. Removing these individuals’ rights to appeal within their notice window is likely to satisfy right-wing groups that perpetuate negative narratives about ‘migrant criminals’ living in the UK.
Despite government claims that rejected asylum seekers appealing decisions several times are an issue to the taxpayer, appeals come with a high cost in legal fees for those appealing. Access to legal advice is also not always easily available, especially for those detained in camps or immigration removal centres. Those with cases of human rights and modern slavery violations that are targeted by these proposals are already facing barriers to appealing harsh rulings.
Removing these individuals’ rights to appeal within their notice window is likely to satisfy right-wing groups that perpetuate negative narratives about ‘migrant criminals’ living in the UK
These proposals are another example of the Home Office’s heavy-handed approach to dealing with people seeking asylum. From unfit detainment accommodation to the recent suggestions of setting up processing centres abroad, the government’s policies seem to place human rights below their immigration and deportation targets.
Header image by UK Immigration Justice Watch