A case has been brought by the Medical Justice charity against the Home Secretary on the challenging of possibly unlawful deportations.

The Home Office hit back at claims that its fast-track deportation policy for vulnerable migrants is unlawful.

The department stated its case yesterday at the second day of a hearing at the High Court with regards to a case brought against the Home Secretary by the charity Medical Justice on the challenging of possibly unlawful deportations.

Earlier, counsel for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had also argued that, under the Home Secretary’s 72-hour removal policy, “there is a very high risk” that deportations occur “without judicial scrutiny”.

The Secretary of State has no “statutory obligation” to inform an individual that they are to be deported.

She said that this is “a decision that is completely in the control of the executive. The Secretary of State is able to control an individual’s right of access to the court”.

In doing so, she alleged that the policy denies a number of human rights to migrants, particularly, their right to ‘remedy’ — access to justice.

The court also heard examples of where Home Office caseworkers had made “errors” in deporting people under the policy, including the case of a man separated from his family in the UK for a year before being returned.

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Counsel for Medical Justice argued that, what might be presented as a safeguard — a 72 hour buffer zone — fails to be so as finding a lawyer, gathering evidence and launching an appeal before a migrant is made liable for deportation can be “impossible”.  

Detainees who request a legal advice appointment have to wait on average four days, not 72 hours to see an adviser. They are allocated a 30 minute slot to discuss their case, which Medical Justice’s lawyers also argued is simply insufficient time.

Counsel for the Home Office said that Medical Justice had made an “ambitious root and branch” case against the policy, but that – under the UK’s “international obligations” – if at any stage after this a migrant says that they have a claim to asylum or have an appeal on human rights grounds, then this would be heard.

Under the Home Secretary’s 72-hour removal policy, “there is a very high risk” that deportations occur “without judicial scrutiny”.

The Secretary of State has no “statutory obligation” to inform an individual that they are to be deported, she said. “The only obligation is to give notice to the carrier of the imminent removal”.

Home Office policy has also changed substantially, she explained.

Prior to 2015, “there would be a series of three points in time and individuals would be given the opportunity to challenge or appeal at each of those points”. The 2014 Immigration Act sought to make this more efficient, the court heard, by introducing a “single power of removal”.

This means that if, for example, an application is refused, the migrant can be both notified of the decision to deport them and asked to mount a challenge within 72 hours.

“The decision has been made”, Home Office counsel said. “They would be issued with notice of removal directions, as a means of giving effect to the decision that has already been taken under section 10. The removal notice… would allow a minimum of 72 hours within which representations would be considered prior to removal.”

The case brought by Medical Justice has been supported, materially or in research, by several organisations – Public Law Project, Freedom From Torture, the Law Society and others.

The case continues.

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