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Breaking Boundaries: Suspending the UK’s fast track system for asylum seekers

10 December 2020

2 minutes to read

Breaking Boundaries: Suspending the UK’s fast track system for asylum seekers

Research from Professor Nick Gill has directly contributed to the permanent suspension of the UK’s fast track system for asylum seekers.

The detained fast track system was introduced in 2013 as an exceptional measure. Whereas a typical asylum application might take six months, a fast track case was supposed to be completed within two weeks or 22 days if an appeal was made.

In 2013, over 4,000 people went through this system with very few positive outcomes through the initial application and through appeal in comparison to not going through the fast track system.

During the first application, only 4.9 percent of fast track case decisions were positive, compared to 37.3 percent of decisions made outside of it. Of those applicants who appealed a negative decision within the detained fact track, only 11.7 percent were successful, compared to 32 percent for appeals conducted outside it.

If they were unsuccessful, asylum seekers were only given two days to lodge an appeal and seven days to prepare their case.

This involved gathering new evidence, giving and taking instructions, identifying expert witnesses, translating key documents, preparing, checking and signing the appellants’ statement and preparing any legal objections they had to the decision.

Professor Nick Gill’s research demonstrated the practical difficulties of carrying out these tasks in such a short period of time. It showed how problems with communication and misunderstanding the complex system were undermining the abilities of people who wanted to appeal to fully and effectively participate in this process and access their legal rights.

In particular his research revealed four important things:

  • A key factor of the fairness of asylum determination processes is their speed.
  • There are high levels of confusion, distrust and disorientation among people seeking asylum about the legal procedures used to decide asylum claims as well.
  • There is a high degree of variation in asylum claim determination by outcome and by process.
  • Women and those who do not have a legal representative are particularly disadvantaged by this variation.

This research helped human rights charity, Detention Action, challenge the Fast Track deadlines at the British High Court. Following consideration of evidence from Professor Gill’s research, the procedures were ruled unlawful by both the British High Court and Court of Appeal and later the Tribunal Procedure Committee refused to reintroduce a redesigned version of the procedures.

It also led to recommendations to improve transparency for people appealing a decision. This has included a multilingual video to explain the appeals process to asylum seekers which has been widely taken up among asylum seekers and their supporters.

The research at the University of Exeter has significantly contributed to important improvements to the UK’s asylum legal process.


Breaking boundaries provides a bitesize look into the variety of leading research that has, and still is changing the world from the University of Exeter.

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Economic and Social Research Council





Professor Nick Gill


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