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Home Office immigration plans ‘confused’, say Bar Council & Law Society

12 May 2021
Categories: News , Immigration & asylum , Judicial review
The Bar Council has slammed radical Home Office proposals to reform immigration law as based on ‘thin or non-existent’ evidence.

The government consultation on its New Plan for Immigration includes proposals for a ‘one-stop process’ for immigration claims with ‘all protection-related issues’ to be presented at the start of the process, an expedited claims and appeals process, and a pre-approved panel of experts.

Responding to the consultation last week, the Bar Council said the time allowed for responses was ‘seriously inadequate’, and the proposals for expediting claims and appeals were ‘confused’, lacked detail, and raised concerns about the potential risk of unlawfulness. 

The proposal for judges to decide refused claims, with no right of appeal, lacked detail, but assuming that it relates to challenges which are currently brought as judicial reviews, then there were already short limitation periods for judicial review, the Bar Council pointed out. It described the use of pre-approved experts as ‘unprincipled and deeply inimical to a fair appeals process’. It said the suggestion that a party acting in an appeal against a Home Office decision before an independent judge could be constrained to instruct a pre-approved expert ‘fundamentally undermines the right to a fair hearing’.

Law Society president I Stephanie Boyce said the plans ‘pose a serious threat to the rule of law as well as undermining access to justice and making a mockery of British fair play.

‘The proposals individually and collectively lack credibility because they are not supported by evidence, detail and perhaps―most damningly―they muddle immigration, asylum and nationality laws.’

She highlighted that the 1951 Convention on Refugees recognises that those fleeing persecution may have to use irregular means of travel and should not be penalised for this.

‘Penalising asylum-seekers who reach our shores by so-called irregular routes, such as by boat, would overturn this principle and risk breaching international law by creating a two-tier asylum system. The government appears not to appreciate the severity of this risk.’

Boyce said: ‘The proposals seek to push asylum-seekers who reach the UK by irregular routes into destitution or homelessness as a way of coercing them to leave the country.’

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