Detained fast tracking of asylum claims
Information sheet by Bail for Immigration Detainees
Overview of the detained fast track
Detained fast track processes currently operate at three centres: Harmondsworth Immigration
Removal Centre (IRC) near Heathrow airport, Yarl‟s Wood IRC in Bedfordshire and Oakington
Reception Centre in Cambridgeshire.
Oakington has operated since 2000 and applicants are held while a quick initial decision is made. If
the claim is refused and the person has a right of appeal in the UK (i.e. is not a non-suspensive
appeal (NSA) case), they are released to NASS accommodation, or are detained for removal in non-
suspensive appeals cases. Legal services are provided on site.
The fast track process operating at Harmondsworth (since April 2003) and Yarl‟s Wood (since May
2005) is sometimes referred to as „super fast track‟. This entails an even quicker timescale whereby
the asylum applicant is interviewed on day 2, served with a decision on day 3, has two days to lodge
any appeals, and the appeal hearing on day 9. Asylum applicants are detained throughout any
appeals they make, until they are removed from the UK or given refugee status, humanitarian
protection or discretionary leave. A duty legal representative scheme, with fast track contracts
awarded to selected suppliers, is run by the Legal Services Commission. There are courts onsite
where fast track appeals and applications for bail are heard.
The fast track process at Harmondsworth and Yarl‟s Wood is a key part of IND‟s New Asylum Model
– the Home Office Five Year Strategy sets out plans to process up to 30% of new cases using
detained fast track.
Harmondsworth and Yarl’s Wood fast track – key statistics
On 31 January 2006, 18% of those held in immigration removal centres were held for fast trackingi and
an expansion of fast track is planned to help to speed up the asylum determination process and quickly
remove those whose claims are unsuccessful.ii,iii
Harmondsworth IRC, run by Kalyx (formerly UKDS): used for single male asylum seekers as soon as
they claim asylum in the UK. There are around 500 beds at the centre (the largest in the UK) and around
200 of these are allocated to fast track cases.iv
Official figures show that 99% of asylum claims are initially refused.v In the first quarter of 2006, only
one percent of Harmondsworth fast track claimants received a positive initial decision, compared to
22 percent in the non-detained system.vi
Most go on to appeal, but the majority are refused – of the 290 appeals heard in the first three
months of 2006, only 7 were allowed.
Official figures disclosed to BID show that in January and February 2006, of 132 appeals, 72 (55%)
were made by detainees with no representation.
The average length of detention has been disclosed to BID as 69 days for those removed, and nearly
40 days for the 19% of cases initially fast tracked, but later released.
Yarl’s Wood IRC, run by GSL Ltd:
BID has similar concerns about Yarl‟s Wood, where single women are fast tracked. Women have told
BID they didn‟t have time to prepare their case, were not able to disclose information about rape and
sexual violence in time for it to be considered, and did not understand the process. Many are
disappointed with the quality and accessibility of the legal representation provided, and when dropped at
appeal stage, some are asked for money by private providers to act in their appeal or in a bail
In the second quarter of 2006, official figures show that 75 women had their asylum claim processed
in Yarl‟s Wood fast track. 99% were refused.
Figures obtained by BID under the Freedom of Information Act show that between May 2005 and the
beginning of September 2006, 345 cases were heard at the Yarl‟s Wood Asylum and Immigration
Tribunal. 26% of women did not have any legal representation at their appeal.vii
In 98% of cases (339 women) the appeal was dismissed. Only 2% of appeals were granted.
On 27 March 2006, the Minister Tony McNulty admitted that he does not know how many women
who are survivors of rape are detained at Yarl‟s Wood.viii
BID is opposed to the use of detained fast track and believes the process raises significant
human rights concerns:
the speed of the process makes it impossible to get a fair hearing and the vast majority of asylum
claims are refused
legal representation via the LSC duty rota is subject to a merits test, which BID believes may be being
applied incorrectly in some cases, leaving many without representation at their appeal
fast track significantly increases the UK‟s use of administrative detention for the convenience of the
state, yet there is no time limit on detention and no automatic, independent review of detention
BID calls on the Home Office to:
adhere to international and domestic legal standards by only using detention where necessary.
UNHCR research shows that asylum seekers do not abscond in „destination countries‟ at the beginning
of their asylum claim, so concludes that detention is not necessary at this stage.ix
give asylum applicants a fair chance in their case by not detaining them, and allowing them sufficient
time and legal representation to prepare their case and any appeals.
provide for an automatic independent review of detention for those in the fast track.
BID calls on the Department for Constitutional Affairs & the Legal Services Commission to:
ensure equality of arms at appeal hearings by scrapping the merits testing for public funding for fast
track asylum appeals or alternatively by amending the merits test so that only those cases that are
considered “bound to fail” are refused funding.
remove fast track appeals from the 40% success rate at appeal target to be applied to publicly funded
require publicly funded representatives to automatically present a bail application on behalf of their fast
Find out more: See BID‟s research „Working against the clock: inadequacy and injustice in the fast track
system‟, BID, July 2006 – download in full at www.biduk.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a hard copy.
BID, 18 October 2006 Contact: email@example.com 07962 460956
Approximately 2200 people are detained at any one time. This information provided by Tony McNulty MP, in answer to
parliamentary question, Official Report, 17 Mar 2006 : Column 2599W
“The second aspect to the strategy is that the Government are introducing a new asylum process, building on the major
successes that we have had in reducing abuse of the system and speeding up the treatment of applications. The reduced asylum
intake will enable us to fast-track almost all new cases and to maintain contact with asylum seekers at key points in the
process, so that we are in a better position to remove individuals whose claims are not justified.” Charles Clarke MP, Official
Report, 5 Jul 2005 : Column 191
„Controlling our borders: making migration work for Britain - five year strategy for asylum and immigration‟, Home Office,
February 2005, see: http://www.archive2.official-documents.co.uk/document/cm64/6472/6472.pdf )
According to figures provided to BID by IND in August 2005, the capacity at Harmondsworth IRC was 501. According to
figures provided to BID in response to an FOI Act request in October 2005, fast track capacity at Harmondsworth was 200.
For example, according to official figures, during the first three months of 2006, 410 new asylum applications went into
Harmondsworth, of which 81% (330 people) received an initial decision. 99% were refused asylum with fewer than 5 people
recognised as refugees. See: Table 19, Quarterly Asylum Statistics, 2006
In the first three months of 2006, of the 330 initial decisions made at Harmondsworth, 99%
were refused and 1% granted. This compares to statistics for the overall decision rate for all asylum claims during the first
three months of 2006, where 6260 initial decisions were made, of which 10% were granted asylum, 12% were granted
humanitarian protection or discretionary leave and 78% were refused. See p3: Quarterly Asylum Statistics, 2006. These figures
do not provide a breakdown of fast track and non-fast track decisions, so these figures will presumably include the cases
determined at Harmondsworth IRC during this time. The vast majority (240 cases) of those refused made an appeal. 25
Figures provided to BID by AIT Harmondsworth show that between 1st January and 30th March 2006, 290 appeals were
heard, of which seven were allowed, 233 dismissed, 10 withdrawn and 50 adjourned.
74% of women are recorded as having had legal representation at their appeal. Information was not provided as to whether
the representatives were paid privately or publicly, or whether the representative was the one allocated at the initial stage via
the LSC fast track duty rota.
Hansard, 27 March 2006, Column 775W
Field, O and Edwards, E (2006) Alternatives to the Detention of Asylum Seekers and Refugees, Legal Protection Policy
Research Series, UNHCR