LONDON (Reuters) - The High Court has quashed a Home Office policy which allows for the swift deportation of foreign nationals refused permission to remain in Britain, saying it was unlawful.
The court ruled that the policy, introduced in 2007 but widened earlier this year, meant those affected had “little or no notice” of removal and so were deprived of access to justice.
The Border Agency’s general policy allows 72 hours notice of removal but this can be reduced to little or none at all for people in certain categories, such as those believed to be at risk of self-harm or unaccompanied children who might abscond because they cannot be detained.
The case was brought by Medical Justice, a body which provides independent medical and legal advice to detainees in immigration removal centres.
It argued that this “exceptions policy” was being used to swoop late at night and escort people to flights leaving only a few hours later, depriving them of the ability to contact lawyers and launch a last-ditch challenge.
The Home Office argued that its policy was “sufficiently flexible” to ensure there were no human rights breaches and that detainees were given as much notice as possible while safeguards had also been put in place.
But judge Justice Silber rejected that argument, the Press Association reported.
“The policy is unlawful and must be quashed,” he said.
However, he did allow the Home Office permission to appeal against his decision, saying the case raised issues of general public importance, including the constitutional right of access to justice.
A Home Office spokesman said they were disappointed with the verdict and would appeal.
“The policy of making limited exceptions in special circumstances to 72-hour notification of immigration removal has been an important element of our management of removals,” he said.
“The government remains committed to removing individuals with no right to be in the UK as quickly as possible.”
Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison