Home Office in turmoil following asylum ruling

The government's asylum processing system was in disarray today after a legal ruling forced it to completely reappraise how it evaluates the claims of those seeking safety in the UK.

The court of appeal backed a judgement by the high court which found the detained fast-track system was so unfair as to be unlawful.

The decision will throw the Home Office into chaos. Ministers were forced to take the detained fast-track system offline recently in response to the ruling, but they had intended to win today's case and reintroduce it as soon as possible.

Minister for immigration James Brokenshire told the Commons the suspension of the system would be "short in duration, perhaps only a matter of weeks", in early July. Today's ruling means the Home Office's hopes of reintroducing the system quickly have been dashed.

Giving the lead judgement, master of the rolls Lord Dyson found the rules governing the appeals process under fast-track were "systemically unfair and unjust" because "the time limits are so tight as to make it impossible for there to be a fair hearing of appeals in a significant number of cases".

Fast-track allowed the government to put asylum seekers into detention and process their cases quickly. This decision was not based on the merits of the case and many asylum-seekers on fast-track were actually from countries experiencing conflict or violence, like Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

"The detained fast-track is a fundamentally flawed process," Jerome Phelps, director of Detention Action, which brought the case, said.

"The courts have repeatedly found that it is structurally unfair towards people who are seeking protection in the UK.  Despite repeated changes, it has continued to be unlawfully unfair.

"Asylum-seekers and the government have a common interest in a system that is both fast and fair.  We hope that the government will work with civil society to find a different approach that does not sacrifice fairness on the altar of speed."

Home Office minister Lord Bates yesterday revealed 323 asylum-seekers had been released from fast-track detention since the suspension of the appeals process on June 26th.