February 23, 2010

II. Recommendations

The flaws within the DFT procedure—the screening process, the breakneck speed that militates against the effective preparation and presentation of a claim, the limitations on legal representation, the difficulties of accessing expert evidence in the time available, and the very fact of detention itself which makes the whole process of building a case even more difficult—leads Human Rights Watch to conclude that it should be abolished.

In the interim, Human Rights Watch recommends:

To the Home Office and UK Border Agency

  • More rigorous procedures should be put in place to ensure complex claims do not get routed into the DFT procedure, including:
    • Add to list of “claims unlikely to be accepted into fast track” in the suitability guidance note for routing into DFT, complex gender-related persecution claims, such as victims of sexual violence and domestic violence.
    • Clarify the criteria for routing a person through DFT, including a clarification of factors that permit a claim to be decided “quickly”;
  • The asylum interview should (in line with the successful solihull pilot) allow time for the gathering of evidence before an initial decision is made even if that means an added few days before the initial decision takes place. The right to apply for bail should be retained during this process.  
  • Guarantee the full implementation of the Gender Guidelines during the fast track procedure;
  • Show that detention is being used only because all other alternatives are unsuitable and detention is therefore necessary and proportionate;
  • Ensure there is up to date country of origin information for all countries from where people are routed into DFT, that is objective and includes information on gender-related issues, such as domestic and sexual violence, trafficking and FGM, and state action to protect and prevent;
  • Provide clear guidance to all case owners on the distinction between Country of Origin Information reports and Operational Guidance Notes;
  •  Make sure the correct country information is used, not just the Operational Guidance Notes and ensure their correct interpretation;
  • Instruct UK Border Agency case owners to follow the UNHCR guidelines on internal relocation and they should have particular regard to country of origin information which describes the position of women in the area of proposed internal relocation;
  • Ensure the availability of female case owners for all women going through DFT, as well as female interpreters and doctors in Yarl’s Wood.
  • Establish and deliver a specific and detailed training program for all case owners in the asylum system which deals with gender-related issues in the asylum process and ensures all case owners are aware of their obligations under the UK gender guidelines and International human rights law.
  • Record the reasons why a person is taken out of fast track and placed back into the regular asylum procedure as well as the moment of that decision, and publish this information.

To the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal

  • All immigration judges should follow the UNHCR guidelines on internal relocation and they should have particular regard to country of origin information which describes the position of women in the area of proposed internal relocation;
  • Restore the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal gender guidelines and ensure their implementation through training.

To the Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency

  • Investigate whether the detained fast track procedure (including its implementation in practice) is in line with UK government guidelines and, in particular, the gender guidelines.
  • Inspect the quality and use of Operational Guidance Notes, in light of the UKBA gender guidelines.

To the Legal Services Committee

  • Remove the merits test for DFT cases at the appeal stage;
  • Expand the early legal advice Solihull pilot to detained fast track cases.

To the UK Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee

  • Launch an inquiry specifically into the legislation as well as practice of the Detained Fast Track procedure, taking into account the specific challenges faced by women seeking asylum in the UK. 

To the European Commission

  • Limit the use of fast track procedures and proscribe the routing of vulnerable groups through accelerated procedures by amending the Asylum Procedures Directive, in particular Article 23.
  • The European Asylum Support Office, launched at the end of 2009, should provide extensive training on the complexity and validity of women’s claims for asylum.