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Interesting reports from a meeting on gender and refugee law tonight:

(I’m fairly sure Asylum Aid have her title wrong in that one.)

From my observations as an outsider, the Upper Tribunal and its predecessors have always seemed very insular while also being generally old, male and pale. There have been occasional moments of reaching out, such as over Country Guidance cases a couple of years ago, but more often I am struck by features such as the secretive reporting committee and country guidance selection process. Senior immigration judges seem positively hostile to immigration lawyers and set very little store by the views of others. How often have we seen a major issue being decided in a reported decision that was selected by unknown means where there was little or no input from either party on the key legal question?

Senior judges would no doubt say that they would welcome diversity. If it were to be done to them, perhaps, but we see precious little being done. The new recruitment process may help a little (applications close tomorrow), but it is a glacially slow process making little progress and there is much more the tribunal could do right now to open itself to external input.

For starters, since you ask, I was talking to a First-tier Tribunal judge the other day who thinks that he literally is not allowed to look at this website, presumably because of the unique judicial banning order on membership of the Free Movement Forum. If any judges are reading, Home Office officials have been eligible to join since May 2014 so the ban probably ought to be lifted…

Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder and editor of the Free Movement immigration law website.

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