Radical proposals to combat a flood of court cases involving boat people were endorsed by a High Court judge yesterday. The Immigration Department decided to act because it fears legal battles may frustrate its attempts to repatriate those who have failed to win refugee status. Mr Justice Brian Keith said the Vietnamese authorities were expected to finish clearing boat people for return at the end of this month. This is expected to spark a dramatic increase in the number of Vietnamese seeking last-minute court orders to stop them being sent back. The judge said the emergency hearings 'cause havoc' with the Director of Immigration's plans for returning the boat people before the handover. He welcomed a set of proposals by the Immigration Department aimed at ensuring they receive swift justice. William Marshall QC said the department would no longer insist on a fully fledged court battle if boat people were given permission by a judge to challenge the decision to refuse them refugee status. Instead, they would immediately be allowed a chance to be re-screened to determine whether they should be treated as refugees. In return, the Immigration Department wants to be represented at the initial court hearing where the decision is made. Mr Justice Keith said the crucial factor in deciding whether permission would be granted was whether the boat people had a case that was likely to succeed. Philip Dykes QC asked for the department to provide early information to lawyers acting for boat people when arrangements were made to send them back to Vietnam. Mr Dykes was representing 22 boat people who are fighting for refugee status.