Travel Document Project
Hundreds of people languish in immigration detention with no immediate prospect of removal because they have no travel documents. It can be very difficult for them to to prove their identity and nationality, and get travel documents, for a variety of reasons. The human cost of of delays in obtaining travel documents is particularly great for those held in immigration detention. There is an urgent need to improve those aspects of the travel documentation process that are managed by the Home Office.
The Home Office now discloses - in part - their internal guidance on evidentiary requirements and timescales for obtaining travel documents listed by country on request from BID, though this information is not routinely published. The most recent version of this document is available to download below. BID welcomes this step towards transparency in the process of re-documenting detainees and others facing removal from the UK. However, important elements of the information which Home Office caseowners rely on to pursue travel documents are still withheld from disclosure by the Home Office, making it impossible for detainees and their representatives to assess whether or not the length of their detention or the purpose of their detention has become unlawful.
BID also has broader concerns about the Home Office's general approach to the re-documentation process. Our casework experience suggests this may contribute to delays in case progression and result in extended and de facto indefinite detention in some cases.
The Travel Document Project provides tools to help people apply for travel documents from their own national authorities, including standard letters, and contact details. There is advice on how such evidence can be used for the purpose of engaging the Home Office with an individual’s efforts to cooperate with the documentation process, thereby also serving as evidence that they are unlikely to abscond if released.
We have also included information from the Home Office, including guidance to its caseworkers on the average timescales, where this is known, for obtaining a passport or an Emergency Travel Document (ETD) from the national authorities of different countries. Such information is essential in understanding whether or not removal of a person is imminent, a significant factor that needs to be take into account by decision-makers in deciding whether or not to grant a person release from detention or bail.
Legal representatives will also find information that is essential to understanding in what circumstances difficulties in obtaining a travel document for a detained person who is facing removal, may render continued detention unlawful. The documents described above that relate to timescales for obtaining documents, are supplemented with information arising from BID’s casework, reference to UK Border Agency policies, international instruments and examples of case law arising from the higher courts where documentation has been central to the argument that continued detention is unlawful.
Detainees seeking advice please contact BID's advice line on 020 7456 9750 between 10am-12pm, Monday to Thursday.