Due to the fact that it prevents the courts from considering their cases a major part of the UK’s strategy for removing failed migrants has been ruled illegal.
The Court of Appeal stated the policy risked removing people from the UK even if they had a right to be in the country.
Campaigners who brought this recent challenge said the Home Office had endangered lives by short-cutting the law. The unanimous judgement against the Home Office was taken by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, together with two other senior judges.
It is at this time not clear whether minsters intend to attempt to go to the Supreme Court but a Home Office spokesperson said it is going to reform a failing immigration system.
The controversial policy which has been ruled illegal was introduced in 2015 in an attempt to prevent last-minute applications to stop removals – sometimes at the steps of the plane.
This has been suspended for 18 months during the legal battle and removals have been carrying on all be it at a far slower and more complicated procedure that allows more time for appeals..
Under the 2015 policy officials told failed applicants – whether they were asylum seekers, economic migrants or people making other claims, that they had 72 hours to make final representations. After that, they could be flown out of the UK, without notice, on any date in the following three months.
Charity ‘Medical Justice’ said the rules meant people who had a genuine case to be in the UK simply could not present their arguments in time to a Judge. Examples submitted to the court showed that the Home Office had repeatedly removed people only to bring them back again. In one example, a man who had evidence that relatives had been murdered in his home country, had to be flown back to the UK and he was later found to be a genuine refugee.
The three Court of Appeal Judges said that the Home Office’s aspiration to speed up removals was not in itself illegal, but in practice the policy had prevented effective appeals and that had risked serious injustices.
“The right to access the court is an absolute and inviolable right”, said the court. “The right to access court is not a relative right to be balanced against other rights and interests, the convenience of the executive or the courts, or the risk of abuse of process”.
Priti Patel, home secretary has repeatedly accused what she has called “activist lawyers” of slowing down immigration removals. In the judgement, the Lord Chief Justice said there were “endemic” problems of false and fanciful late claims, some of which involved a “minority” of lawyers”, unconnected to the case before them.
The judges however, stressed that the Home Office’s solution had prevented judges from considering genuine cases because someone could be put on a flight before they had had a chance to go to court.
A spokesperson for Medical Justice said that the policy had unfairly treated many of its sick clients. He continued to say “one of our society’s most precious treasures is access to justice”.
“Away from the public eye, this policy denied that fundamental right on a massive scale causing serious harm to extremely vulnerable people and risking life. It was effectively a shortcut to removal. Quashing the policy brings us back towards equal access to justice for all”.