Since July 2014, the Home Office have been deporting people from the UK before their human rights appeals have been heard. The policy is known as “deport first, appeal later” and was enshrined in law at Section 94B of the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. Since it began, Unity have been working with people whose cases have been certified under S.94B. Most of these people have lived in the UK since they were children. Many had British partners, many had British children. Although many fought by all means necessary, the law was clear – people were to be deported before their human rights appeals were heard. The injustice of this was always painfully obvious. Any reasonable person could see very plainly that what was happening was both morally and legally bereft. But not the Court of Appeal judges.
The case of Kiarie and Byndloss was the ‘test case’, that first challenged the lawfulness of the Home Office’s “deport first, appeal later” policy. The case was heard in the Court of Appeal in September 2015 and a Unity collective member went down to report on proceedings. We all thought that the judges would be persuaded by the commonsense arguments that deporting people before their appeals had been heard, was not OK. Shockingly, the judges decided that the “deport first, appeal later” policy was fine. The lawyers for Kiarie and Byndloss obviously sought to appeal, but while their appeal was pending the Home Office did not withhold deportations under Section 94B, they just kept deporting people before their appeals had been heard.
Years later went by and Section 94B caused irreversible damage to deportees and their families. Those whose cases were certified under Section 94B struggled (usually from immigration detention, where they could be held indefinitely) to obtain legal representation. Given the Legal Aid cuts and the “surgery” system in IRC’s, getting a lawyer was essentially impossible.
People’s mental and physical health was compromised and families torn apart. Once people had been deported, they generally attempted to survive day-to-day in countries that they could no longer call home. Unity know of one person who was killed upon being forcibly removed back to Jamaica. Others have faced serious hardship, compromising their mental and physical health in ways that cannot be undone. Almost everyone that we know was unable to maintain proper contact with the family members they were torn from, who remained in the UK. Most people were not able to exercise their out of country appeal right. Even with specialist support from charity Roots to Return, which was set up as a result of the “deport first, appeal later” regime, people became uncontactable. In short, people were denied access to justice and harm as serious as death was caused to people deported, while their families also suffered.
On 14 June 2017, the Supreme Court’s ruling confirmed what we always knew: Section 94B is unlawful. The impacts of this legislation cannot be undone. But the legal principle has now been exposed as unlawful. This finding should not have taken 2 years, it should not have cost people their lives. But it is something.
*** If you or someone you know has had a case certified under Section 94B and/or been deported with an out-of-country appeal, Unity would love to hear from you firstname.lastname@example.org.