The government is pressing ahead with plans to raise the fees for asylum tribunals by up to 500 per cent in a bid to recoup some of the £86 million-a-year cost. But migrants qualifying for legal aid or on benefits will still be exempt, as will those deemed to be destitute.
Following a consultation in which all but five respondents opposed the changes, the Ministry of Justice announced on Thursday that fees for an application to the first-tier immigration and asylum tribunal will increase from £80 to £490 for “a decision on the papers”, and from £140 to £800 for an oral hearing.
Applications to the First-tier Tribunal for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal, which were previously free of charge, will now carry a fee of £455.
Fees will also be introduced for the first time to the Upper Tribunal, set at £350 for applications and £510 for the appeal hearing.
The Ministry thanked respondents to the consultation for their views, but said that the policy must remain that, where fees are charged to access the service, they must be set at a rate designed to cover the full cost.
However, in an indication of how many applicants are exempt from the fees, the Ministry estimated in its response that the changes will raise an extra £34 million, in addition to the £7 million already raised annually via fees – well short of the estimated annual running costs of the First-tier and Upper Tribunals of £86 million a year.
Exemptions from payment for those eligible for legal aid or who are on asylum support will continue to apply. And in response to the consultation, the government will exempt those who have been assessed as destitute by the Home Office.
The Ministry said: “The Immigration and Asylum Chambers of both the First-tier and Upper Tribunals play an important role in our justice system and securing their funding for the long term is essential to making sure that they continue to function effectively. This requires some tough decisions about where the burden of that funding should properly fall.
“The Government does not believe that it is reasonable to expect the taxpayer to subsidise access to this tribunal. It is right, as a matter of principle, that those who use the immigration tribunals and are subject to a fee should pay the cost of the service they receive.
“For this reason it is our intention to proceed, as per our consultation, with the implementation of the higher appeal fees in the First-tier Tribunal and the introduction of new fees for appeals in the Upper Tribunal and for permission to appeal applications.”