Asylum and immigration court fees set for a steep hike


22 April 2016
The UK is set to increase its asylum and immigration tribunal fees by more than 500 per cent to help pay off the funding deficit the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is experiencing.

The proposed hike in the application costs will help the MoJ raise £37 million a year, and will also prove to be a deterrent to those who enter the UK with limited resources and want to appeal the rejection of their initial application.

The MoJ has just launched a consultation on the proposed steep increase. The basic fees for first-tier immigration tribunals will increase from £80 to £480 for an application for a decision on legal papers. On the other hand, a complete tribunal hearing will increase from the current £140 to £800, as per the recommendations of the MoJ. It is believed an additional £455 fee will also be introduced to pay for applications that ask permission to appeal to the upper tribunal after the ruling of the first-tier tribunal.

The MoJ justified the increase by stating that it was unreasonable to expect taxpayers to pay 75 per cent of the costs involved in immigration and asylum proceedings. Earlier in 2016, Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, had announced the steep increase in probate fees.

Recently, the MoJ had revealed that the Ministry was forced to borrow £427 million from the Treasury in 2015 to pay for the cost of certain trials and an unforeseen decrease in fees that it used to receive from other sources.

Justice Minister Dominic Raab defended the latest increase in immigration court fees by stating that it was necessary to reduce the burden on taxpayers when it comes to running tribunals and courts. Mr Raab went on to state that all quarters of the Ministry should contribute to the national effort to reduce deficit and ensure the country enjoys surplus finances once more.

In 2014-15, services of the courts and tribunals cost £1.8 billion. In contrast, the income of the MoJ was just £700 million. The taxpayer funded the difference of £1.1 billion - and this was for just one year. Mr Raab has acknowledged that several new fees that the MoJ has introduced will be more than the costs of the hearings. He added that the MoJ has raised court fees to more than the cost of proceedings for possession claims, money claims, divorce petitions and general applications in civil proceedings. The surplus money will be invested in technology and will help the justice system enter the computer era.

The MoJ consultation has recommended increase in the fees for those proceedings related to immigration and asylum where the fees cover the cost of the proceeding in entirety. Mr Raab explained that the government was aware that some applicants would face problems in paying the increased fees. So to ensure that the burden of funding the system is shared fairly, the government would continue exempting individuals in vulnerable position from fees.

People who qualify for asylum support and legal aid would be exempted, along with those appealing a decision that takes away their UK citizenship or children supported by a local authority who are appealing to the tribunal. Parents of children getting local authority support and children being accommodated by a local authority will also fall in the exempt category.


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