The human rights and law reform organisation JUSTICE has launched a new report on the immigration asylum appeals system, saying that the tribunals have “become relatively complex and slow in parts of their operation, and overburdened by paper and unnecessary bureaucracy”. A working party chaired by Professor Sir Ross Cranston calls for 49 tweaks to a system described as “complex, difficult to navigate and subject to relatively frequent changes”.
The report says that better communication between the various parties involved in the immigration system is a “key theme” and calls for regular meetings, convened by resident judges and bringing together lawyers and immigration advisers, the courts and tribunals service, and the Home Office.
“Better Home Office decision-making”, the authors point out, “is the key to delivering a better appellate system”. Their report acknowledges that there is “no shortage of criticism” (for further reading, see most posts on this blog) and “notes with concern” the fact that half of all decisions that are appealed are overturned.
The working party also noted that “ineffective channels of communication between HOPOs and the senior caseworkers authorising concessions has resulted in unnecessary hearings and an inefficient use of judicial resources”. Among the report’s recommendations are that
All Home Office communications should indicate a clear and effective point of contact and contact details for each case, and at each stage.
Home Office presenting officers should always consider fresh evidence and arguments and address whether a case should be conceded and be prepared to withdraw resistance to an appeal including on the day of a hearing. This should be accompanied by effective channels of communication with the senior presenting officer authorising the concession.
The report’s conclusions focus heavily on how claimants and their representatives are, supposedly, fouling up the system. It decries what it calls a “culture of non-compliance”, calling attention to
the procedural problems facing the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) in handling immigration and asylum appeals. Despite the commitment of its judges and staff, there are delays in hearing appeals, insufficient case management, non-compliance with the tribunal’s rules and directions, cases progressing slowly and being unjustifiably drawn out, and unnecessary hearings.
Sir Ernest Ryder warns immigration practitioners about compliance: “we should not have to invoke the Hamid jurisdiction that often”.
— Free Movement (@freemovementlaw) July 2, 2018
In a similar vein, the report points to examples of “unsupervised and unqualified persons giving advice and assistance on immigration matters, representatives who had exploited vulnerable clients, and those who were incompetent and, in a few cases, dishonest”. Given that this was also mentioned by Professor Cranston in his remarks at the launch, it is not surprising that the Times (“Report warns of rogue asylum lawyers“) and Law Society Gazette have taken this angle in their coverage of the report.
The report recommends that
In addition to the greater use of the Hamid procedure, the Immigration and Asylum Chambers should collect and record information on a systematic basis about practitioners considered to provide poor quality service, the outcome of cases and cases certified as totally without merit.
It also calls for the First-tier Tribunal to make wasted costs orders for non-compliance, with the power “exercised even-handedly between appellants and the Home Office”.