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Online asylum appeals to be rolled out nationwide in 2020


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Asylum appeals will be filed and managed entirely online from next year, the courts and tribunals service for England and Wales has said.

HMCTS told Free Movement that it plans to roll out its “reformed digital asylum service” to all hearing centres at the end of January 2020.

The digital appeal system aims to make the process of challenging an asylum system more efficient and less paper-bound. The focus is on electronic document upload, digitised case management and early online resolution rather than the final hearing being on a webcam, although HMCTS is also experimenting with virtual hearings throughout the tribunal system.

Outlining the system in a recent update on its work, HMCTS said that “appeals will be submitted electronically by legal representatives and will be received instantaneously by both HMCTS and the Home Office. The appeals will then progress digitally via the on line service from initial application, through to hearing and judicial decision”.

It adds that the new system will “enable cases to be resolved online where that is appropriate, as well as supporting the use of video and face-to-face hearings”.

Digital asylum appeals are currently being piloted at Manchester and Taylor House hearing centres. Six solicitors’ firms are involved.

The pilot will be expanded to Bradford and Newport in September 2019, and further rolled out to Birmingham and Hatton Cross by the end of the year.

The national rollout that follows will only be for cases where the appellant has legal representation. HMCTS says that a separate service is being designed for unrepresented appellants, which will begin pilot testing early in 2020.

Other areas of immigration and asylum law may be digitised further down the line. The HMCTS annual report notes that “we have plans to continue to research and design other appeals processes including bail”. 

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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.