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BBC reveals big variations in success rate of asylum appeals at different hearing centres

Date of Publication: 
30 November 2017
Summary: 

A lack of legal representation found to be a key factor for low success rate

BBC reveals big variations in success rate of asylum appeals at different hearing centres

30 November 2017
EIN

Data obtained by the BBC through a Freedom of Information request has revealed that there are large variations in the success rate of First-tier Tribunal asylum appeals depending upon which hearing centre the appeal is heard in.

The research was carried out by Catrin Nye and Leo Sands for the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme. Data was obtained on 36,000 ordinary asylum appeals heard from January 2013 to September 2016. Fast-track cases were excluded.

Success rates of appeals varied from highs of 47% at Taylor House and 44% at Newport to lows of 24% at Harmondsworth and Belfast and 21% at Yarl's Wood.

The lack of a legal representative was found to be a key factor for the variance in success rates.

BBC News noted that Harmondsworth and Yarl's Wood, which had the lowest success rates, had the highest proportion of cases with unrepresented asylum seekers. 32% of appellants at Harmondsworth and 23% at Yarl's Wood had no legal representation.

Retired immigration judge Catriona Jarvis told the BBC that some areas had become "legal-aid deserts". She explained: "These are areas of the country where there are no firms of solicitors who are providing immigration asylum law services. That becomes incredibly problematic for asylum seekers who have been sent to live in those parts of the country."

Natasha Walter, founder of the charity Women for Refugee Women, recounted how she observed one unrepresented female rape victim lose her case in a "shocking" hearing, as she did not know what evidence to bring and she was too traumatised to speak about her rape. "She stood no chance," Walter told the BBC.

Labour's shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti said an urgent investigation into the research's findings was needed.

Chakrabarti expressed concern that legal aid had been "all but obliterated," and added that it was not acceptable that asylum seekers who could face persecution or death if removed from the UK were going into hearings unrepresented. Chakrabarti said it was the duty of the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary to ensure that every single such person had access to advice and representation

Legal representatives also pointed to a difference in cultures between hearing centres as a factor for the variance in success rates.

A solicitor from Duncan Lewis said: "It's the kind of arbitrary decision-making which I see across the systems all the time, that two cases with merit can have completely different results, based on different judges and different hearing centres."

The full breakdown for the success rate of appeals at each hearing centre is as follows:

Tribunal

Success rate

Cases heard

Belfast

24%

292

Birmingham

34%

4,177

Bradford

41%

2,903

Glasgow

28%

1,979

Harmondsworth

24%

1,196

Hatton Cross

40%

6,414

Hendon

39%

72

Manchester

34%

4,428

Newport

44%

3,083

North Shields

30%

1,848

Nottingham

39%

140

Richmond

43%

299

Stoke

36%

1,923

Taylor House

47%

7,488

Yarl's Wood

21%

125