Life after Refusal to Enter: Reflections of an Immigration Judge

Geoffrey Care


This article is a personal account of an immigration judge
in the UK. The history of attitudes towards immigrants in the UK since the Edict of Nantes is briefly sketched along with the sporadic emergence of review systems of executive decisions concerning immigrants, both political and non-political, from the beginning of the twentieth century up to the current one introduced first in 1969. The article then looks at the sort of judges recruited at first and the subject matter of most of the appeals until 1993—visitors, students, overstayers, and those seeking settlement for work, for their families to join them, and for marriage. The article deals briefly with the development of the immigration law in this period through these sorts of cases and the issues and questions facing the judge at the time. It considers where we got our information from with its challenges
and shortcomings: particularly the misunderstandings which arise in cross-cultural dialogue. The paper deals with the differences between a tribunal system in this particular jurisdiction, which adopts an adversarial approach, and the regular courts; and with the profound impact on a judge of having to adapt to decision making in such a milieu. It also tackles how these differences affect a judge’s approach, especially given the constraints imposed on his judicial independence. It also deals with the apparent changes over the years in the attitudes of judges in the tribunal, leaving a question mark over how far they are infl uenced by events and public opinion. Some of the perceived shortcomings of the tribunal system to decide immigration matters are set out in the context of what Stephen Sedley described as a “fear of public abuse or political displeasure, unwittingly favouring individuals who fit stereotypes with which I felt an affinity; affection (sympathy) or prejudice which may skew my judgment.” The demons which lurk in all systems of adjudication, asylum prominent among them, are called out by name in the judicial oath and the hope is expressed that lessons have been learned both as a judge and a person in the course of some twenty-two years in this jurisdiction.

Full Text: