Over the last decade, drastic legal aid cuts have left many to navigate the asylum and immigration system unrepresented. Last week, there was some rare good news when the government announced that separated children would once again get legal aid for immigration and citizenship issues.
If you are detained, there can be big difficulties in accessing the legal advice you need to challenge your detention and/or progress your legal case.
The report argues that the existing systems of funding, contracting and auditing, which perversely protect the market position of poorer-quality providers, create advice deserts and droughts, and drive up demand and cost in the asylum and legal aid systems.
“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.”
The Public Law Project have produced a guide to “Legal Aid Exceptional Case Funding: Applying without the assistance of an adviser or solicitor”.
The government has announced that the appeal fees would revert to the previous level, and refunds would be made to those who had paid the increased fees. The government will review the situation and secondary legislation would follow to “formalise the position as soon as possible”.
It may not surprise you to learn that, following a public consultation over the proposed hike in immigration and asylum court fees during which lawyers, NGOs and the public warned the government the fees would severely impede access to justice and threaten the rule of law, the government is introducing said increase as of today, Monday 10 October 2016.
The UK government has proposed increasing the fees that need to be paid to appeal an asylum or immigration decision in the First-tier and Upper Tribunal in England and Wales.
In a humiliating ruling in the Supreme Court, the government has yet again been found to be acting unlawfully and with unjustifiable discrimination, this time by planning to introduce a 12 month residence test for legal aid.
Understanding the asylum and immigration system, and your own legal case, is more important than ever. Cuts to legal aid (free, government-funded legal representation) mean that more and more people have no lawyer at all and are forced to navigate this very complicated system without legal representation.
Even if you have a lawyer, it’s important to understand your own legal case – this is your case and your life and you need to keep track of what is happening and whether the lawyer is doing the things they should be.