Proposed fee increases of more than 500% at the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal would deny justice to people appealing Home Office decisions, the Law Society has warned.
Responding to Ministry of Justice (MoJ) proposals, Law Society president Jonathan Smithers (pictured) said: 'Everyone should be able to access the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, irrespective of their financial means.
'The tribunal’s role is to resolve disputes between individuals and the state that obviously will affect an individual’s life and future.
'Access to justice for all through the tribunal must trump the “full cost recovery” imperative driving the MoJ’s proposal.'
Pointing out that a significant proportion of appeals that reach the tribunal are upheld, Smithers said the MoJ itself estimates that the fee increase would lead to a 20-40% drop in the number of appeals.
Families making joint appeals, where the fee is payable by each family member, will be particularly hard hit, he said, with a family of five paying £4,000 compared to the £800 fee for a single person.
Smithers said the impact of the fee increases will be disproportionately felt by people with protected characteristics as the vast majority of immigration tribunal applicants are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
He proposed that the MoJ consider using the profits generated by visa applications to fund the tribunal, which is an integral part of the process of ensuring the fairness in the visa system.
Announcing the consultation in April, justice minister Dominic Raab said the government had concluded that it is no longer reasonable to expect the taxpayer to fund around 75% of the costs of immigration and asylum proceedings. 'We therefore propose increasing fees in the First-tier Tribunal from £80 to £490 for an application for a decision on the papers and from £140 to £800 for an application for an oral hearing. We also propose introducing a new fee of £455 for an application to the First-tier Tribunal for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal.'