The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) is a higher court which deals with appeals against some or all decisions to:
- Deport someone from the UK on the basis of national security or for other public interest reasons;
- Exclude someone, or prevent them entering the UK, for national security or public interest reasons;
- Deprive someone of UK citizenship on the basis that is for the public good to do so.
The Structure of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission
The SIAC consists of a panel of three members. One of these will previously have been a judge in a higher court, one will be a legally qualified member of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal and one member will usually have experience of national security issues.
SIAC hearings are theoretically open to the public but may be held in private if it is felt necessary to do so for public interest reasons. Individuals bringing appeals to the SIAC will usually do so anonymously but appellants may agree to have their name published.
Special Advocates and the Special Immigration Appeals Commission
In some cases a decision to deport or deprive an individual of their citizenship may be based on evidence which is so sensitive that the government does not wish it to be revealed to the individual bringing the appeal, or to the public. In such cases the SIAC will appoint a Special Advocate to represent the appellant.
A Special Advocate is an independent barrister who has been given security clearance to deal with such cases. An appellant in such a case may be given a list of Special Advocates from which he can choose his representative. The Special Advocate will then be shown the secret evidence and will prepare the case and make submissions to the SIAC based on this evidence. Any appeal hearings which refer to the secret evidence will take place in the absence of the appellant and his usual legal representative.
Appealing to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission
Where the Home Office or the Secretary of State makes a decision to deport or deprive an individual of their citizenship on the basis that it is for the public good to do so, a letter will be provided outlining the decision and notifying the individual of their rights of appeal.
The appellant, or their representative, must then fill in a notice of appeal to the SIAC setting out the grounds of their appeal. They must attach to the notice of appeal any additional documents on which they intend to rely and the notice or letter setting out the decision against which they are appealing.
The length of time an individual has to file an appeal depends on whether or not they are in the UK or being held in detention. It varies from 5 days for those being held in detention in the UK to 28 days for those outside the UK. The period begins from when the decision was “served” on the individual – generally speaking if the decision was sent by post to a UK address the decision is said to have been served two days after the date on the letter.
Appeals Against a Decision to Take Away Citizenship
The Secretary of State has the power to remove an individual’s UK citizenship if he considers it in the interests of the public good to do so. However, an individual may not be deprived of citizenship in this way if he would be rendered stateless by the removal of his UK citizenship.
When seeking to deprive an individual of his UK citizenship the Secretary of State must certify that such an action will further the public good. If the Secretary of State certifies that his decision is based to any extent on information which should be kept private, an appeal against the decision will be heard by the SIAC.
Appealing Against a Decision by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission
An individual whose appeal to the SIAC is unsuccessful may appeal against it on the basis that the decision was wrong as a matter of law. Such an appeal would be made to the Court of Appeal. To bring an appeal against a decision by the SIAC the appellant must first get permission from either the SIAC itself or from the Court of Appeal.