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National security court backs refugee in secret ruling
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National security court backs refugee in secret ruling

There is little that can sensibly be said about RT v SSHD SN/72/2019, heard by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC). In making its decision, SIAC rejected all of RT’s grounds for judicial review, but found in his favour anyway on the basis of secret evidence.

The claimant, a refugee from Algeria, challenged the refusal of his naturalisation application. The Home Office had rejected it on national security grounds but provided extremely limited reasons — the refusal letter simply stated that RT “may be supportive of acts of terrorism”.

SIAC found that there were reasons for the decision; RT just wasn’t entitled to know what they were. Under SIAC’s special procedural rules, the Home Office is permitted to present secret evidence in “closed” proceedings. This undoubtedly places claimants and appellants at an unfair disadvantage.

Only RT’s special advocate, a lawyer appointed for him and vetted by the government, is allowed to see the secret evidence. He or she cannot discuss it with RT or his lawyers. RT’s special advocate seemed to spot two reasons on the secret evidence that the decision should be quashed. But since SIAC’s judgment on the secret evidence is itself secret, we cannot know what these reasons are:

Despite our dismissal of all five OPEN grounds of appeal, and for reasons contained in our CLOSED judgment, we have concluded that the decision must nonetheless be quashed and remitted to the [Home Secretary].

 The case does, however, demonstrate just how opaque SIAC proceedings can be.

Larry works at Bhatt Murphy Solicitors. He previously managed the Prisons Project at Bail for Immigration Detainees, and worked as a Senior Caseworker in the immigration department at Wilson Solicitors LLP.