“The government’s position is that obtaining legal advice is not necessary in making an immigration application and that no advantage in the application process should accrue to people who choose to access, are able to afford legal advice, over those who cannot.”
This is a statement from the Home Office, as part of their response – published this week – to last year’s consultation on the Windrush compensation scheme.
This position is patently ridiculous, although it was also stated at the time of the most recent devastating legal aid cuts when the 2012 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Laspo) was brought in.
Immigration law is an incredibly fast-changing and complex area of law. Refusals of applications can result in family separation, human rights breaches, destitution, detention and removal from the UK (or refusal of entry in the first place).
As the Guardian reported last year, the Home Office have made more than 5,700 changes to the immigration rules since 2010.
The immigration rules have more than doubled in length to almost 375,000 words.
Successive changes to law and policy have made it much harder for people to meet the criteria for many applications, and there are far fewer legal channels for redress if an application is refused.
Appeal rights have been removed for many immigration applications, with currently only the right of appeal within the UK if the Home Office refuse an application based on an “international protection” claim (asylum or Humanitarian Protection applications); a decision to revoke refugee status or humanitarian protection; a claim for the right to remain in the UK under EU (European) law; or a human rights claim.
And not all applications based on human rights or protection grounds have a right of appeal either.
The legal aid cuts mean that if your immigration case is not an asylum case and you are in England or Wales, you cannot get (free) legal aid advice or representation.
This means that understanding the asylum and immigration system, and your own legal case, is more important than ever. More and more people have no lawyer at all and are forced to navigate this very complicated system without legal representation.
That’s why, sadly, our work helping people to navigate the baffling, labyrinthine and often cruel procedures is more in demand than ever.
We want comprehensive, specialist, free legal representation to be restored. Until it is, people need to help each other to succeed and survive the UK asylum and immigration process. Read more about that in our recent blog post.
Until legal aid is fully restored, but even then, it’s important to understand your own legal case – it’s your case and it’s your life. That’s what the Right to Remain Toolkit is all about. Have a read. Be prepared. Support each other.
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