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Introduction

A report by Human Rights Watch HRW , published today, documents how female asylum seekers are being shunted into a fast-track system that does not accommodate the complexity of their cases. I wrote an article for the New Statesman in October about the problems faced by women seeking asylum. Often they are fleeing persecution by their families or communities, which can be harder to prove than straightforward political pressure. There is no provision made for this in the stringent terms of the Refugee Convention , and it can be very difficult to build a legal case that proves, for example, the risk of honour killing, rape, female genital mutilation, domestic violence, or social exclusion.

Fast-Tracked Unfairness. Detention and Denial of Women Asylum Seekers in the UK

The Detained Fast Track system , created in , is part of the government's drive to conclude 90 per cent of all asylum claims within six months. Women began to be fast-tracked in When a claim goes through the fast track, the UK Border Agency aims to reach a decision within two weeks, during which time the asylum-seeker is detained for administrative ease.


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The problems with this are manifold. The article I wrote in October discussed the way in which women in the mainstream asylum system are trapped within a framework that does not recognise their needs: the extra time it takes to gather evidence of persecution, the expert testimony required to make the case, and the gender-sensitive procedures required to help them discuss matters such as rape. To attempt to process these claims in two weeks -- with just a few days to appeal -- is nothing short of a travesty of justice.

As the report shows, lawyers have very little time to gain the trust required for the client to explain their claim, or to obtain the medical and other evidence to corroborate an asylum application.

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So far 2, women have gone through the fast-track process. About 96 per cent of them were refused on first hearing, while government statistics for and the first half of show that 91 per cent of appeals were refused. As asylum aid organisations and women's groups have pointed out for months, this benefits no one. It is traumatic for the woman, and ultimately more expensive for the Home Office and the British taxpayer, due to the cost of going to appeal. Earlier instruction of lawyers was an obvious solution but not the only approach available to the SSHD, which could alternatively choose to improve the screening process, establish effective safeguards in the rules or allow more time for building a case.

However the DFT operated unlawfully because it carried an acceptable risk of unfairness to vulnerable applicants by delaying access to legal representation.


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Under the screening process, asylum seekers are interviewed with no legal advice, no transparency and no right to appeal the decision to screen them out and return them to their country of origin. As in the UK, the justification given for this process is to expedite the processing of certain claims. But also as in the UK, such a truncated process can deny fairness to the asylum seeker and increase the risk of people with genuine protection claims being wrongfully returned to harm.

The full decision can be found here. The HRLC is an independent, not-for-profit organisation which protects and promotes human rights in Australia and beyond through a strategic mix of legal action, advocacy, education and capacity building. All Rights Reserved. We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Traditional Owners owners of the land on which we work and live.

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Detention and Denial of Women Asylum Seekers in the UK | HRW

We pay our respects to the First Peoples of this country, their culture and Elders past, present and emerging. We recognise that this land was and always will be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land because sovereignty was never ceded. Human Rights Case Summaries. Respecting right to family life and Separation of father from wife and Background to the DFT In , in response to a sudden and administratively overwhelming influx of applications for asylum, the SSHD introduced the DFT through new policies and rules under existing immigration and human rights legislation.

In short, these were: A considerable reduction in asylum seeker claims since DFT was introduced meant that circumstances no longer warranted the DFT.

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Security was also higher than the acceptable limit for this purpose, as set by the House of Lords in Saadi. Clear guidelines as to whom to exclude from the DFT were lacking.


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  7. Detainees under DFT included more cases which had previously been considered too complex for a quick decision, such as those involving torture, rape, female genital mutilation FGM and homosexuality. The screening process was incapable of making proper identification of suitable detainees for the DFT. DFT was operated with little flexibility and with inadequate safeguards such as judicial review or scope to take cases out of the DFT. Legal representation was allocated to asylum seekers too late within a short timeframe to allow for adequate preparation of a claim.

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    Legal representatives did not have sufficient time to take questions and gather supporting evidence. No safeguards were offered by the appeal process. Decision The decision commenced with findings of numerous deficiencies in the DFT, but each was insufficient to render the entire system unlawful.