Crowd Funding request by JCWI

Challenge to the five-fold increase to Immigration Tribunal fees

By Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
The Government is raising immigration and asylum tribunal fees by an unprecedented amount, in the face of almost universal opposition. Help us ensure that not only the rich are able to challenge incorrect Government decisions, by contributing to this urgent legal action.
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Your card will only be charged if the case meets its target of £5,000 by Nov. 16, 2016, noon

JCWI is a charity fighting for fairness and justice in immigration law and policy. We are challenging the Government’s order increasing immigration tribunal fees by approximately 500%. Tribunal fees for an application without a hearing that used to be £80 are now £490; and the fee for an application with a hearing has risen from £140 to £800.

Who is affected? 

These fees apply to immigration and asylum appeals. Appeal rights have already been narrowed, so that these appeals can only be brought in the most serious types of cases: those concerning human rights, refugee protection, and fundamental EU treaty rights. Appellants often face life-changing, and even life-ending consequences if a wrong decision is made.

Targeting Immigrants

No other UK tribunal is raising fees to this extent, or is being expected to cover its own costs.

Only the Immigration and Asylum Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal has been singled out for such high fee rises. Tribunals with wealthy users that could provide more lucrative costs savings appear to have been spared.

For example, in the Copyright Tribunal, which is used by a far wealthier set of companies and individuals than the average user of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber , the fee for most applications is only £50. Fee rises in the Employment Tribunal, which have drastically reduced claim numbers and been heavily criticised by many, have still left employment tribunal fees far lower than those implemented in the Immigration and Asylum Chamber.

Background – Hiding Home Office Casework errors

In recent years the Government has taken steps whose effect is to prevent Home Office caseworkers’ decisions being scrutinised by an independent body. The Government has reduced appeal rights so that the vast majority of immigration decisions no longer carry a right of appeal to the Tribunal. It has also introduced legislation meaning that some appeals can only be pursued once a person has left the UK. New legislation passed this year will have the effect of curtailing the rights of appeal that a person can exercise while still in the UK even further. These fee increases will have the same effect – even fewer people will be able to access an independent review of their immigration or asylum related application.

Home Office casework decisions are notoriously error-prone. For example, between October and December 2015, 41% of appeals against Home Office decisions were allowed in the First-tier Tribunal. The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman revealed serious problems with Home Office decision-making, upholding 70% of complaints made. The Ombudsman commented that “delays, poor decision making and not doing enough to address the injustice caused to individuals and their families are key issues in complaints about the Home Office“.

When the decision involves something as serious and irreversible as sending someone back to face potential torture or death, this is simply unacceptable. However, the gravity of the consequences don’t seem to reduce errors. In 2015, the Refugee Council noted that 90% of Home Office refusals of refugee protection by Eritrean asylum seekers were being overturned by the Tribunals on appeal. Eritrea is a country that has been frequently described as Africa’s North Korea, and is ruled by one of the most violently repressive regimes in the world. This month a tribunal ruled that the Home Office was wrong to treat Eritrea as safe. Without access to appeals, the Home Office would have been sending far more people back to face serious harm.

These proposals will greatly reduce the ability that people have to hold the Home Office to account for incorrect decisions that ruin lives.

What is JCWI doing about this?

We will bring a judicial review claim in the High Court arguing that the proposed fees increase is unlawful and a disproportionate restriction on access to justice and the protection of human rights. Our staff will use the experience and institutional knowledge JCWI has from almost half a century’s work advising on immigration matters to put the full impact of the measures before the court. We have instructed Liberty to act as our solicitors in this matter and our barristers areLaura Dubinsky from Doughty Street Chambers, and Karon Monaghan QC from Matrix Chambers.

How much will it cost?

Judicial reviews must be brought within very short and strict time-frames, and so we urgently need at least £5,000 to make sure we can cover the costs of this action. The first stage of the process is to apply for ‘permission’. After that, if we are granted permission, we will be given a court date, and will prepare to argue the case on that date. We need at least £5,000 to cover the immediate risk we face of being ordered to pay the Government’s costs before a Cost-Capping Order (CCO) is put in place. A CCO is an order from the judge that puts a limit on the amount of money we would have to pay the Government if the claim did not succeed. We can only apply for a CCO after obtaining permission from the High Court to proceed with our judicial review. Ourstretch goal is £10,000. This reflects the fact that we believe a CCO is likely to be set at more than £5,000, and also that we would like to be able to pay our legal team for the work that they do, albeit at a very low, non-commercial rate.

Our legal team has kindly agreed to do all work before we are granted ‘permission’ pro bono: they will not charge us for it. After the permission stage, we hope to be able to pay our legal team (at greatly reduced rates) for the further work that they do in preparing the case for court and in attending court to make legal arguments. This would include legal research, gathering case studies, researching evidence, requesting and analysing disclosure documents from the Government, drafting legal arguments, and responding to the Government’s defence.

How you can help

Please do contribute if you can. Every little bit of money will help us to fight these fee rises which would put Government officials and their faulty decisions beyond the scrutiny of the courts.

You can also help us by sharing this page and spreading the word about what the Government is trying to do. Write to your MP to raise your concerns about this attack on access to justice for all, and ask them to support any action being taken in Parliament to fight these measures.

Finally, please contact us if you have any information about these proposed rule changes that could help us. Are you facing increased fees to appeal an immigration or asylum decision? Or if you’re a lawyer and can provide us with information or case studies about how these fee increases will affect your clients, please do get in touch with us at JCWI.