May 07 2009

Asylum and Immigration Tribunal: the end of the line

Following last year’s sham consultation, from which even the judiciary were excluded until they heard of it by chance, and a set of responses which even the Home Office could only describe as “mixed”, the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal has today circulated some of its “stakeholders” to inform them that the tribunal will be merged into the unified tribunal structure early next year: no earlier, it says, than February 2010. My thanks to the anonymous correspondent who passed a couple of its internal circulars to me, including a set of FAQs, supposedly from the Tribunals Service but pretty obviously written by the Home Office, as to the move. To quote from the FAQs:

Q. Why is the AIT moving?
A. Bringing the AIT into the unified structure will… deliver more effective immigration control.

Q. Why is the appeals system changing yet again?
A. To remove more people each year and conclude applications as quickly as possible, we need a faster and more efficient appeals system.

Q. What is being done to remove [judicial reviews of decisions of UKBA] from the higher courts?
A. The Government has decided to legislate… an opposition amendment was voted on and approved by the House of Lords… the Government is now considering the effect of the amendment and how to proceed. The Government remains of the view that it is appropriate that the High Court and Court of Session should in due course have the ability to transfer immigration and nationality judicial reviews to the Upper Tribunal.

This is not the language of judicial independence. It shames the Tribunal Service, and augurs ill for its claims that it intends to operate as something more than a puppet of government, that it allows its letterhead to be used to circulate government policy.

Update: Letter from the Borders Agency, and Home Office ‘Questions & Answers‘ from the Tribunal Service, now accessible here. For further comment, see also ‘End of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal‘ at Free Movement.

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