Immigration and asylum (determination reform)

JUSTICE published Delivering Justice in an Age of Austerity in April 2015. Since that time, the move towards the digitisation and modernisation of courts and tribunals has gathered pace with a £1bn investment by the Government in courts and tribunals. Following consultation with relevant stakeholders, including senior judiciary, JUSTICE has set up a Working Party of its members, launched on 2 May 2017, to look at the determination processes in immigration and asylum cases and how these might be reformed in the context of the HM Court & Tribunal Service (HMCTS) Reform Programme.

The challenge

It is widely recognised that there are various problems with the determination process in immigration and asylum cases: from the quality of Home Office decisions (as suggested by the high percentage of allowed appeals), through issues with the availability and quality of legal representation to inefficiencies at the appeal stage. Given the massive government investment in IT and commitment by both HMCTS and senior judiciary to do more online there is huge pressure to make a success of the court and tribunal reform initiative. JUSTICE is concerned to avoid the existing inefficient systems becoming entrenched through a mere process of automation and digitisation. JUSTICE proposes to use this opportunity to truly innovate, to explore what ‘digital by design’ means in the context of immigration and asylum, and to recommend changes that will support a system that is both specifically tailored to working in a more digital and proactive way and which solves or ameliorates some of the existing problems.

The Working Party

The Working Party will review the existing operation of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber (IAC) of the First-Tier and Upper Tribunal and propose reform so as to guide, inform and assist the judiciary and HMCTS in its implementation of the HMCTS Reform Programme.

In particular, and working in consultation with user groups, HMCTS, the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the senior judiciary, the Working Party will:

  • review Home Office decision making with a view to getting the decision right without having to go to appeal;
  • review how appeals and judicial review proceedings are determined in the IAC and propose how cases might be resolved in a more efficient and fair manner;
  • explore which current issues in the determination of immigration and asylum cases, including judicial reviews in the upper tribunal, might be solved or ameliorated through the HMCTS Reform Programme; and
  • identify the kinds of difficulties that might arise when trying to digitise proceedings in the IAC and propose solutions.

The Working Party is split into three sub-groups:

1. Challenges and Opportunities in Implementing the Key Aspects of the Reform Programme in the Immigration and Asylum Chamber (IAC)
2. The 2014 Fundamental Review of the First-tier Tribunal (IAC) and Other Efficiency Proposals for the IAC
3. Home Office Processes

The Working Party builds on JUSTICE’s earlier Working Party reports Delivering Justice in an Age of Austerity and What is a Court? A report is expected by early 2018 so as to enable the report’s its recommendations to inform Government policy. Current plans are for the Reform Programme in the IAC to be completed by 2019.

The Working Party is chaired by Professor Sir Ross Cranston, former Solicitor General and recently retired as Judge in Charge of the Administrative Court. The members of the Working Party are:

  • Diana Baxter
  • Judge Chris Buckwell
  • Marian Cleghorn
  • Judge Nicholas Easterman
  • Amanda Finlay CBE
  • Michael Fordham QC
  • Judge Louis Kopieczek
  • Suzanne Lambert
  • Jawaid Luqmani
  • Rowena Moffat
  • Sonali Naik
  • Professor Nick Gill
  • Professor Martin Partington CBE QC
  • Professor Robert Thomas
  • Judge David Zucker

The Working Party will be supported by JUSTICE staff members Jean-Benoit Louveaux, Head of Administrative Justice with oversight from Jodie Blackstock, Legal Director.

We are also very grateful to the Ministry of Justice, HMCTS and the Home Office for their attendance and contribution to the work and meetings of the Working Party. Also to Kingsley Napley who pledged their support to the Working Party.