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Home Office fast track deportation policy ruled unlawful

27 July 2010

A Home Office policy allowing the fast track deportation of foreign nationals who have been refused permission to remain in the UK was ruled to be illegal by a High Court judge yesterday.

Mr Justice Silber granted a declaration sought by Medical Justice, a group providing medical and legal services to detainees in immigrant removal centres, that the "exceptions policy', introduced in March 2007 and broadened in January this year, is unlawful.

While normal practice is to give those facing deportation 72 hours' notice of removal, the policy allows removal with little or no notice for some categories of people, such as those believed to be at risk of self harm, or unaccompanied children, who cannot be detained and might abscond.

Medical Justice argued that the policy deprived those affected of access to justice by removing the chance to contact lawyers and attempt a last minute challenge. Officials were taking people late at night and putting them on flights a few hours later.

The Home Office argued that detainees were given as much notice as possible and its policy was "sufficiently flexible" to avoid any human rights breaches. The judge however considered that the Government had failed to bring in adequate safeguards to ensure those deported at very short notice were not put at risk.

Emma Ginn of Medical Justice said the Government's Border Agency had "chanced their arm to see what they could get away with, in the knowledge that many vulnerable victims' voices would not be heard in the middle of the night".

Leaver to appeal has been granted to the Home Office, which claims the policy has been an important element of its management of removals.

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