Serious Backlog Of Human Rights Appeals Leaves Applicants In Jeopardy


In just two years since changes to appeal rights were brought in by the Immigration Act 2014, the UK’s immigration appeals system has racked up a worrying backlog of cases.

This has left hundreds of families separated for months or years.

Limiting The Right To Appeal

The Immigration Act 2014 came into force under a cloud of criticism from human rights campaigners. It reduced a person's right to appeal against 17 different immigration decisions (including unlawful and erroneous decisions made by the Home Office) to just 3:

  • Refusal of a human rights claim
  • Refusal of a protection claim (humanitarian protection and asylum)
  • Revocation of protection status

In response to criticism about delays in the immigration appeal system, the then Justice Minister, Shailesh Vara, stated in the House of Commons in November 2015:

"As a consequence of the Immigration Act 2014, we anticipate the number of appeals going down. We are keeping an eye on the numbers and at the moment we do not see a particular concern, but if there is one, we will make sure that there are more sittings."

This was in response to concerns about a significant backlog in the immigration tribunal. The Justice Minister gave reassurances that more resources would be provided to the Ministry of Justice to enable more cases to be heard if the backlog persisted.

Examining Data On Human Rights Appeals

Simpson Millar's immigration experts used a Freedom of Information Act application to ask the Home Office to reveal the number of human rights appeals made to the First-tier Tribunal in 2015 and 2016.

We asked how many of these appeals had been dealt with during those years, and this gave a clear indication of an increasing backlog.

We also asked how many of those appeals were successful from people living inside the UK, and from people who had to make their appeal from abroad:

  • In 2015, 15,142 appeals were received. Only 87 were successful in that same year, while the majority of cases drifted into 2016.
  • In 2016, 27,563 appeals were made – prompting calls for more funding to deal with a tightening bottleneck of cases. 2,650 appeals were successful, but less than half of those (1,032) were from people outside the UK.

Decisions regarding appeals made in 2016 appear to largely have been pushed into 2017.

Emma Brooksbank, Head of Immigration at Simpson Millar, comments on how these figures are troubling:  

"What experts feared and warned would happen has indeed come true; access to justice is reduced and we are left with a system that is entirely unable to cope. The promise of extra funding to relieve the backlog has not been kept, and delays are increasing in the Tribunals."

"The impact on children, some of whom are now living separated from their parents, is particularly significant and devastating."

Waiting Months For A Decision

Even more worryingly, the number of cases that are now regularly added to what’s called a 'float list' – cases that haven’t been allocated a court date but those that might find themselves in front of a judge, if such becomes available on that day – is increasing.

But, often no judges become available and that case is then moved to a new hearing, which could easily be a further 4 to 6 months in the future.

Emma comments:

"We anticipated to find a significant backlog of human rights appeal cases, but the figures are far worse than feared."

"At Simpson Millar, we are dealing with cases where people are waiting over a year for their appeal to be heard. These are cases where family members are often separated from one another. It is totally unacceptable when we are dealing with something that is fundamental to people’s lives."

About those instances where the appellant is overseas, Emma says:

"In these cases, first-hand testimony is absolutely paramount."

"People who are overseas face poorer chances of success than those who have been allowed to make their appeal from inside the UK."

The removal of appeal rights under the Immigration Act was phased. In October 2014, in-country points-based applications from Tier 4 Students and their dependents plus non-European Foreign National Offenders had their appeal rights removed, followed by the remaining in-country points-based decisions in March 2015. The remaining decisions fell under the Immigration Act 2014 from April 2015.

Making A Freedom Of Information Request

Through Freedom of Information, Simpson Millar asked the Ministry of Justice:

1. How many appeals to the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) were made after the Home Office refused a human rights claim, in 2015 and 2016 respectively?

2.a. How many of the above (Q1) were an in-country right of appeal?

2.b. How many of these (2.a.) were successful?

3.a. How many of the above (Q1) were an out of country right of appeals?

3.b. How many of these (3.a.) were successful?





In Country

Out of Country


In Country

Out of Country























The data provided is the most recent available and for that reason might differ slightly from any previously published information. Data is taken from a live management information system and can change over time.

*Notes from the Home Office about the Immigration Act 2014:

'The Immigration Act 2014 removed a number of existing appeal rights against Home Office decisions. Refused applicants can now only appeal by asserting a fundamental right to enter or remain in the UK. These are Protection, Deprivation of Citizenship, Removal of Refugee Status, Human Rights or European Free Movement. It is a refusal of this decision that has an appeal right under the Act. Where appeal rights were removed and the applicant asserts the Home Office has made an error in its decision, there is may be a right to an Administrative Review by the Home Office.'

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