In a letter to the Guardian published yesterday, a group of leading immigration lawyers have warned that the Government’s recent proposals to substantially increase court fees in the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal is likely to breach the European Convention on Human Rights and may be unlawful.
The letter says that proposals to increase court fees by up to 500% will put justice beyond the reach of some of the most vulnerable and will harm families, leading to more parents separated from their children, victims of domestic violence left destitute and vulnerable people at risk of serious human rights abuses. It would cost £4,000 for a family of five to appeal, clearly preventing the vast majority of immigrants from challenging unlawful decisions.
“The increase in fees would disproportionately affect people from ethnic minorities and prevent those most in need from accessing justice. The quality of Home Office immigration decision-making remains poor in many cases, and this increase would prevent even those who do have a right of appeal from exercising that right”, the lawyers state.
The letter continues: “We agree with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission that imposing court fees at the level proposed is likely to breach the European Convention on Human Rights and may be unlawful.”
In concluding, the lawyers urge the Government not to proceed with this proposed increase, saying access to justice is fundamental to the rule of law. The letter follows the recent concerns expressed by Parliament’s Justice Committee who said in a report that the proposed court fees risk denying vulnerable people the means to challenge the lawfulness of decisions taken by the state about their immigration and asylum status.