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Appeal court quashes Home Office policy of removing migrants without access to justice

A HOME Office policy giving migrants as little as 72 hours’ notice of their impending deportation was unlawful, the Court of Appeal ruled today.

The Medical Justice charity took legal action over the policy, under which migrants were given between three and seven days’ notice that they might be removed from the UK at some point in the next three months without any further warning.

The charity argued that it would be impossible for anyone who did not already have a lawyer to obtain one in the brief notice period, meaning that the policy posed “a serious threat to the rule of law.”

In September last year, the High Court rejected Medical Justice’s claim that the Home Office had “curtailed or removed the right of access to court to challenge [its] decisions.”

Mr Justice Freedman found that the Home Office had included “a whole series of safeguards” in the policy which he said “operate so as to preserve rather than to impede access to justice.”

But Medical Justice took its case to the Court of Appeal, which unanimously ruled that the policy was unlawful because it led to “a real risk of denial of access to justice.”

Lord Justice Hickinbottom — sitting with the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and Lord Justice Coulson — found that “whether an irregular migrant is removed before he or she has had an opportunity to obtain legal advice and apply to the court is a matter of pure happenchance.”

He found that the policy, which had been suspended since March 2019 pending the outcome of Medical Justice’s case, was therefore arbitrary and unlawful.

Lord Justice Hickinbottom said that the policy “incorporated an unacceptable risk of interference with the right of access to court by exposing a category of irregular migrants … to the risk of removal without any proper opportunity to challenge a relevant decision in a court or tribunal.”

In a statement after the ruling, a Medical Justice spokeswoman said: “One of our society’s most precious treasures is access to justice.

“Chillingly, away from the public gaze, this policy denied that fundamental right on a massive scale, causing serious harm to extremely vulnerable people and risking life.

“It was effectively a shortcut to removal. Quashing the policy brings us back towards equal access to justice for all.”

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