Government Withdraw The 500% Rise In Immigration Tribunal Fees
The Law Of... offering affordable access to justiceEarlier this year the government announced that there would be a 500% rise in immigration tribunal fees as part of its attempt to regain some of the costs associated with handling immigration appeals.
But after various concerns about these plans were raised following a public consultation, the government recently announced that the increases would not be going ahead.Ashley Stothard
, Paralegal for Simpson Millar's Immigration team
, and Arshia Hashmi
, Solicitor for Simpson Millar's Immigration team, explain how this decision will benefit those seeking refuge in the UK.
Breaking The Bank
After the immigration tribunal fees shot up by 500%, individuals who wanted to appeal to tribunals were expected to fund the following costs:
- Applications to the first-tier tribunal dealing with immigration and asylum cases drastically increased from £80 to £490, whilst oral hearing fees increased from £140 to £800
- Appeals being made to the upper tribunal cost individuals £350 per application and appeal hearings cost £510
But these fee increases will no longer apply, according to Sir Oliver Heald
, the minister responsible for courts and justice. From Friday, individuals will be able to pay the original immigration tribunal fees and anyone who has paid the increased fees will be reimbursed.
The Ministry of Justice has also announced that it intends to undertake a more thorough review of the current fees.
Making A U-Turn On Immigration Fees
The results of a public consultation on immigration tribunal fees revealed overwhelming opposition to the idea of changing the fees, with only 5 out of 147 responses supporting the higher fees. Describing the increases as "punitive"
, the Law Society stated that the more expensive fees would hamper access to justice.
As part of his announcement about the retracted fees, Sir Oliver Heald said:"We have listened to the representations that we received on the current fee levels and have decided to take stock and review the immigration and asylum fees, to balance the interests of all tribunal users and the taxpayer and to look at them again alongside other tribunal fees and in the wider context of funding for the system overall."
He added: "The government's belief is unchanged that it is right that those who use our courts and tribunals should pay more, where they can realistically afford to do so, to ensure that the system is properly funded to protect access to justice and relieves the burden on the taxpayer."
The chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Saira Grant, welcomed the decision to decrease the fees but highlighted that it doesn't go far enough:"These fee increases were part of a series of measures that have drastically reduced people's ability to appeal Home Office decisions to an independent court. Home Office caseworkers regularly get life-changing decisions wrong and the government response has been to insulate them from the independent scrutiny by removing appeal rights, forcing people to appeal from abroad and removing legal aid.""Today's decision is a welcome step, but we have a long way to go to ensure access to justice, irrespective of their ability to pay up."
Ashley comments:"We're really pleased that the government has changed its mind about the increased fees for immigration tribunals and that it's even going as far as refunding those who had to pay the previously sky-high fees.""Having such steep fees in place meant that the most vulnerable were being prevented from getting access to justice, which contradicts the function of the tribunals.""If this announcement has affected you or someone you know and you want some support with the application process, speak to one of our Immigration solicitors as soon as possible."
Arshia comments:"This is good news for those individuals who have not yet exercised their appeal rights due to the increased fees, and who are still in time for exercising these rights.""But, it also calls into question those cases where people did not appeal due to not being able to afford the fee increases at the time. There's the chance that these individuals applied for fee remission and were unsuccessful in their application, and as a result their refusal went unchallenged.""If you know someone who is currently in this position or needs some legal help, it's important for them to seek legal support – it could make all the difference to their application or appeal."