Appeal court quashes UK policy of removing migrants with little warning


The court of appeal has quashed a Home Office policy of removing migrants from the UK without access to justice.

In a unanimous decision, three judges found the policy, which allowed the forcible removal of a migrant from the UK sometimes within hours and in many cases without access to lawyers, to be unlawful.

More than 40,000 removals were affected by the policy, resulting in vulnerable people being put at risk. Some were recognised as having been removed unlawfully, were brought back to the UK and granted leave to remain.

Wednesday’s ruling will be a blow for the home secretary, Priti Patel, who has vowed to take a tough line on removing migrants from the UK. It also comes at a time when she has been reported to be considering making some definitions of human rights law for judges rather than leaving judges to decide these legal points for themselves.

Timeline

Priti Patel: a decade in politics

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Becomes the first female Asian Conservative MP. Picked
for junior ministerial
roles in the Treasury and
Department for Work
and Pensions by David
Cameron. Allies herself
with the ‘new right’ when
she co-authors – with
Dominic Raab, Kwasi
Kwarteng, Chris Skidmore
and Liz Truss – a 2012
book called Britannia
Unchained, which calls for
lower taxes and massive
economic deregulation,
with one section famously
describing Britons as
‘among the worst idlers in
the world’.

Becomes
international development
secretary under Theresa
May, raising concerns
among departmental
staff and aid charities
because of her support
for Brexit and her longheld scepticism towards
international development
and aid spending. One
charity even compiles a
cuttings dossier of her
previous statements calling
for the aid budget to be
reduced or redistributed.

The BBC’s
James Landale breaks
the story that Patel has
held unauthorised work
meetings in Israel with
senior figures including
Benjamin Netanyahu,
the prime minister,
during what was billed
as a family holiday. She
is summoned to Downing
Street and, after first
robustly defending herself,
she resigns.

After less than two
years on the backbenches,
returns to the cabinet
under Boris Johnson in
July as home secretary,
prompting rights groups
to raise her previous
comments on areas
including immigration,
asylum and criminal
justice – not least the death
penalty, of which she spoke
in favour on the BBC’s
Question Time in 2011, a
view she now disowns.

Sir Philip Rutnam, the Home Office’s top civil servant, resigns and threatens to sue for constructive dismissal after what he calls ‘a vicious and orchestrated’ campaign against him by Patel. A string of further allegations emerge of her bullying, intimidating, belittling and shouting at civil servants in DfID and the DWP as well as the Home Office. She is said to have been cleared by a Cabinet Office inquiry, as yet unpublished.

The judgment from the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, Lord Justice Hickinbottom and Lord Justice Coulson emphasises the importance of the right of access to justice under common law: “The right to access the court is an absolute and inviolable right … the right to access to the court is not a relative right to be balanced against other rights and interests.”

The Home Office policy that has been quashed includes “removal windows”, whereby someone is given as little as 72 hours notice that they might be removed from the UK at some point during the subsequent three months, without any warning.

The appeal court challenge was brought by the charity Medical Justice, the Public Law Project and Duncan Lewis solicitors.

A Medical Justice spokesperson said: “One of our society’s most precious treasures is access to justice. Chillingly, away from the public gaze, this policy denied that fundamental right on a massive scale causing serious harm to extremely vulnerable people and risking life. It was effectively a shortcut to removal. Quashing the policy brings us back towards equal access to justice for all.”

Rakesh Singh, a solicitor at the Public Law Project, said: “This is a case about access to justice, one of the fundamental values of the British constitution. The ‘removal windows’ policy shut people out of the legal process. It meant that when mistakes were made, people could not access the court to put things right, and led the Home Office to remove people with a right to be here – including a number who were caught up in the Windrush situation.

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“Removing people in this way caused terrible injustices and placed many individuals and families in danger and into hardship, unnecessarily and unjustly.”

The Home Office has been approached for comment.



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