This summer saw two significant developments in relation to immigration detention in the UK.

UK High Court finds detained fast track, as it operates, unlawful

On 9 July 2014, the UK High Court handed down a significant judgment finding the detained fast track procedure for asylum seekers unlawful as it currently operates, in a case brought by IDC member Detention Action. This is the first time that a UK court has found that the detained fast track has crossed over into unlawfulness.

Under the detained fast track procedure, when a person claims asylum in the UK, if the UK Border Agency believes the case is straightforward and therefore quick to decide, they can hold the asylum-seeker in a detention centre while their case is determined. It has been heavily criticized by the international community and civil society as being unfair and dysfunctional.

In its decision, the court found that the unjustifiable delay in providing lawyers to people in detention combined with a number of serious failings with the system created an “unacceptable risk of unfairness”. It was therefore unlawful as it currently operates. But the judgment did not find that the fast track procedure is in itself unlawful.

“So we have mixed feelings,” said Jerome Phelps, Director of Detention Action. “We are delighted that our clients’ complaints about the process they have been going through have been vindicated.  But it is disappointing that the serious shortcomings identified in the judgment have not been found to be in themselves unlawful”.

Parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention

The judgment came days after the first dedicated Parliamentary inquiry into the impact and implications of the use of immigration detention was launched in the UK. The inquiry is a joint initiative of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration and will examined the use of detention in the UK immigration and asylum systems.

At its first oral evidence session on 17 July, the inquiry heard from civil society representatives, mental health professionals and, significantly, a small group of people affected by immigration detention: both people who were currently detained and people who had formerly be detained in immigration detention in the UK.

“In fact, the noble and exciting aspect of this inquiry is its willingness to hear from the people who are directly affected by detention…. This is the reason why the Detention Forum, a network of over 30 groups working together to question and challenge detention, welcomes this inquiry” commented Eiri Ohtani, Coordinator of the Detention Forum.

The panel is encouraging all interested parties to submit written evidence to the inquiry. The deadline for submitting written evidence is 1 October 2014.

More information

Detention Action’s review of the UK High Court’s decision on detained fast track: and

Border Criminologies, R (Detention Action) v SSHD: A (Partial) Victory Against Detained Fast Track:

Detention Action’s briefing note on the detained fast track procedure:

Official website of the UK’s Parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention:

Detention Forum, UK Detention Inquiry: a step in the right direction (Open Democracy):

Detention Action’s written evidence to the inquiry can be read here: detention-action-detention-inquiry-evidence-0714.

Posted: 30 August 2014