Ministers aim to block high court appeals by failed asylum seekers
Alan Travis, home affairs editor
Friday August 22 2008
Ministers have moved to stop failed asylum seekers appealing to the high court against deportation. A Home Office consultation paper published yesterday proposes “streamlining” the asylum appeals process by blocking access to high court judicial reviews for some failed asylum seekers. Their cases are to be heard by a tribunal instead.
The Home Office yesterday also published its annual asylum statistics, which show 23,430 new claims for refugee status in 2007 – the lowest level since 1993 – with 12,300 claims in the first six months of this year.
Most came from Afghanistan, Iran, China and Iraq, with 6,540 of the 2007 claims proving successful.
Removal of failed asylum seekers in the first six months of this year fell to 6,000 as the Border and Immigration Agency focused resources on deporting foreign national prisoners reaching the end of their sentences. Total removals over the period reached 32,200, including 2,500 prisoners.
The Home Office said it hoped to speed up deportations by increasing the capacity of the immigration detention centres by 60%. A critical report by the chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers, on Yarl's Wood detention centre published today highlights the plight of children held at the Bedfordshire centre.
She says that 83 out 450 children held at Yarl's Wood between May and October last year were detained for more than 28 days. She says this included a period of chicken pox quarantine and highlights the case of a disabled child detained at Yarl's Wood pending deportation.
Donna Covey of the Refugee Council said it was vital that the integrity of the asylum appeals process was maintained.
“One in five appeals are successful – this clearly shows that appeals provide a vital safety net,” she said.
“We must ensure that the process is of the highest quality and that it is subject to effective judicial scrutiny.”
She added: “If the low numbers of asylum seekers to the UK were the result of the world becoming a safer, more peaceful place, then we would have something to celebrate.
“As it is, we have real concerns that people who need our help and protection are not able to get here to access it. We need to ensure that our borders remain open to refugees who are in fear for their lives.”