The Government proposes to move to ‘full cost recovery’ in immigration and asylum appeals by increasing fees in the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) from £80 to £490 for appeals decided on the papers alone, an increase of just over 512% and from £140 to £800 for appeals decided by way of oral hearing, an increase of over 470%. They also propose to charge new fees of £455 for an application to the FTT for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal (UT), of £350 to renew such application before the UT and of £510 for hearings before the UT.
Such fees are cumulative. So the fee for an appeal which is first heard in the FTT, refused permission to appeal by the FTT, and then granted permission to appeal and heard by the UT would be £2115. If the UT remits the case back to the FTT for a rehearing, as is common, the appellant could then be charged a further £800, bringing the total cost to £2915.
These are very substantial fees, even for those receiving average wages in the UK. They are even more substantial viewed against incomes in many other states: for instance, £2915 exceeds by a substantial margin the annual GDP per person figures published by the World Bank for India (US$1581.50) and Pakistan (US$1316.60), two Commonwealth countries with strong ties to the United Kingdom accounting for a substantial proportion of immigration and/or asylum applications. The annual GDP per person figure for Malawi (US$255) is far below the contemplated fee even for a decision ‘on the papers’ (£490).
ALBA and JUSTICE believe that the proposals are seriously flawed. The proposed fee increases for the FTT will operate as a major impediment to access to justice and are likely to be unaffordable for most, if not all, current users of the appeals system. The proposal for further fees for onward appeals to the Upper Tribunal will exacerbate the effect of fees in the FTT. The implementation of the proposals is likely to remove the ability of vulnerable persons to access an independent tribunal system. Such access is necessary to determine the legality of government decisions that are of fundamental importance to people’s lives. In our view, the proposed fee increases are also very likely to be found unlawful by the courts in certain cases, tying up the courts in yet more expensive litigation.