Updates, commentary, training and advice on immigration and asylum law

Are asylum appeal hearings the same wherever they are heard?


Older content is locked

A great deal of time and effort goes into producing the information on Free Movement, become a member of Free Movement to get unlimited access to all articles, and much, much more


By becoming a member of Free Movement, you not only support the hard-work that goes into maintaining the website, but get access to premium features;

  • Single login for personal use
  • FREE downloads of Free Movement ebooks
  • Access to all Free Movement blog content
  • Access to all our online training materials
  • Access to our busy forums
  • Downloadable CPD certificates

Both parties and practitioners are entitled to expect that the practice and procedure of the court in which their case is heard will be consistent and fair irrespective of which court it is and where it is.  Yet a Freedom of Information Act 2000 request made by academics at the University of Exeter has revealed a dramatic disparity between regional hearing centres in the proportion of First-tier Tribunal asylum appeals that are allowed.  Strikingly, between 1 June 2010 and 31 March 2012, 42% of appeals were allowed at Taylor House in central London versus only 18% at Columbus House in Newport.

While the low success rate for appellants at Columbus House might not be wholly surprising, and some degree of disparity between hearing centres is to be expected, there can be no objectively reasonable justification for a disparity of this magnitude.  The statistics suggest a system that is inconsistent and, consequently, unfair.

Since making the Freedom of Information Act 2000 request, the academics have commenced a research project examining:

[T]he process of appealing against initially negative asylum decisions in order to identify what factors differ between courts.  In the first part of the research, which is survey, interview and observation based, we will examine what should be consistent between courts in order to ensure that every court delivers the same standards of fairness.  In the second part of the research, we will be observing courts to see whether any of these important factors do actually differ between courts.  And in the third part of the research, we will be examining the way differences in courts have been experienced by different groups including applicants and legal professionals.

Some early reflections on the project’s initial findings can be found here.  A final report is anticipated in 2016.

The team are seeking practitioners who are willing to be interviewed about their experiences of consistency and fairness in asylum appeals, in particular those with experience of representing appellants in more than one regional hearing centre.  Volunteers should contact Andrew Burridge (a.d.burridge@exeter.ac.uk).


Interested in refugee law? You might like Colin's book, imaginatively called "Refugee Law" and published by Bristol University Press.

Communicating important legal concepts in an approachable way, this is an essential guide for students, lawyers and non-specialists alike.

Relevant articles chosen for you
Picture of Bijan Hoshi

Bijan Hoshi

Bijan is a barrister practicing in public law and human rights at Garden Court Chambers. He undertakes work in all areas of immigration, asylum and nationality law.


3 Responses

  1. There is a certain grim satisfaction in seeing confirmation of my impression of North Shields down there beside Newport. But that is no comfort for the people’s whose cases are refused. One person I monitored whose case was at Newport and was not allowed a adjournment in spite of an appeal to LSC about getting legal aid just having been granted, was sent back to Cameroon and had to escape immediately, was eventually granted refugee status via UNHCR Kinshasa. I know we all know that these are life and death decisions and it is quite right that there should be consistency.

  2. Almost certainly due to the hugely superior standard of advocacy in London.
    Paul Richardson
    (Barrister- London)

  3. Or perhaps due to the hugely inferior standard of Presenting Officers (i.e. frequently absent) in London during that period?