Home Office's Fast-Track Deportations 'Tricking' Vulnerable Migrants into Returning to Danger, Court Hears
A case has been brought to challenge the Home Office’s policy of giving migrants just 72 hours’ notice of potential deportation.
Migrants, who have not broken the law but are earmarked by the Home Office for deportation, are being subjected to an “unlawful” fast-track scheme, potentially resulting in them hurriedly being sent back to danger in their countries of origin, the High Court heard today.
A case has been brought regarding the challenging of possibly unlawful deportations against the Home Secretary by Medical Justice, supported by other charities.
Opening her argument for them, Charlotte Kilroy QC said that the key question for Mr Justice Freedman, was whether the Home Office is entitled to deport somebody at a time when it cannot be challenged.
“The policy places a severe risk to access to justice for that reason,” she said. “It’s a constitutional principle in the UK that the lawfulness of the executive is supervised by the courts. They [migrants] don’t have access to the courts.
“Any individual should be entitled to know when they are to be removed so that they can access the court to challenge those decisions.”
Some have been removed to countries they fled persecution from, and have not been heard of again. The Home Office must bear some responsibility for their fate.Medical Justice spokesman
The court heard the story of ‘A’ who “says that he was effectively tricked by the Home Office into going for an interview and he was removed… he did not know that removal was the purpose of the interview”.
Another migrant “was eventually returned to the UK after a year’s separation from his wife and child, following a judicial review challenge… Mistakes like this are not picked up, because people are unaware that they are going to be removed.”
The Government did not conduct any consultation before implementing this aggressive policy in 2015, the court heard, suggesting that the Home Office is acting unilaterally, without parliamentary oversight.
Successive home office ministers, including Sajid Javid, have continued with the policy, refusing to engage in a dialogue with immigration lawyers or asylum seekers.
A spokeswoman for Medical Justice spoke told Byline Times outside the courtroom: “There has been no change, from successive Home Office ministers, they refuse to hear us. A lot of our clients have been deported and have to appeal from abroad, some end up being returned to the UK, which shows there was often no cause to deport them in the first place.”
Another spokesman for the charity added: “Denying extremely vulnerable people the ability to challenge a sudden threat of removal from the UK on this massive scale is causing serious harm and risking life.
“Many of our sick clients have been subject to ‘removal windows’ – we did not know if they would be in the UK from one day to the next.
“Clients we have managed to remain in contact with have described terrible consequences of being removed, with no legal advice or access to the courts.
“Some have been removed to countries they fled persecution from, and have not been heard of again. The Home Office must bear some responsibility for their fate.”
If you like this article…
Digital edition from £29. Print edition from £36.
Join News Club for events and interviews in London.
… to help us commission more great journalism every day.
A ‘removal window’ is the issuing of 72 hours’ notice by the Home Office to ‘vulnerable’ migrants that they might be deported, followed by a three-week period during which they are likely to be. Migrants who the Home Office decides to detain also have just 72 hours in which to access a lawyer.
Migrants not deemed ‘vulnerable’ and who are living in the community are instead given five working days’ notice, and three months of limbo in which deportation may or may not occur.
Neither window is remotely sufficient to lodge a claim against their deportation, according to the charities supporting them.
Across the immigration estate, Ms Kilroy said, Sajid Javid’s department has “not engaged with the evidence at all” of claims by charities of people suffering abuse, “or produced an alternative account”.
Many migrants are picked up in the middle of the night and put straight into detention, with just 72 hours to try to get hold of a lawyer, the court heard.
“The clock is already ticking as they are transported to the detention centre,” Ms Kilroy said. “They often arrive in the middle of the night.”
She cited a survey which stated that 42% have had to wait more than a week to see an adviser, putting them well past schedule for mounting an effective challenge to the Home Office.
‘A’ says that he was effectively tricked by the Home Office into going for an interview and he was removed.Charlotte Kilroy QC
“Even once an appointment is requested there are delays in detainee slots,” Ms Kilroy said. “In practice, it is extremely rare for a detainee to obtain a 30 minute appointment [in time]. That happened out of our 11 case studies only once.”
Even if migrants do get hold of a lawyer in time, there are still huge barriers to justice, she told the court.
“That 30 minutes is barely enough to complete basic formalities.
“It’s not as if the lawyer can go away after having taken instructions. They can’t go away and start working on the case straight away, because they are seeing 10 people that day.”
Counsel for the Home Office responded to claims that some migrants are facing ‘enforced deportations’, announcing that “Operation Perceptor” is no longer in effect.
This appeared to open a can of worms.
“What is Operation Perceptor?” quizzed Mr Justice Freedman.
Ms Kilroy, responding for the claimants, said that she has seen no evidence or documentation from the Home Office to prove that they are rolling back “Operation Perceptor”.
The hearing continues tomorrow.
This article was amended on 20 June 2019 to correct the impression charities other than Medical Justice brought this claim and that the DFID was the source of a survey.