Only people accredited with a regulatory body such as OISC can give legal advice in asylum or immigration cases.
There are lots of things that friends or supporters can do to help in a legal case without providing legal advice. We call this help “legal support”.
What is legal advice?
Legal advice can be defined as the application of legal rules and principles to a specific set of facts that proposes a course of action. Legal advice is specific, direct, and proposes a course of action.
If you are not qualified to give legal advice, you can still give legal information. Legal information is factual, generic and does not address any one particular cause of action.
Providing legal information in the asylum and immigration context could be explaining how the asylum and immigration system works, what the most recent country guidance case on The Gambia is, or what an “injunction” is. This is not providing legal advice.
If you aren’t a legal professional, you may not have the necessary up-to-date knowledge to provide correct advice. Wrong advice can be worse than no advice.
Even if the advice you are giving does not fall into the category of “legal advice”, remember that the person seeking the right to remain should be making all the decisions. Even if someone asks for your advice, try not to be tell them what to do but instead give information about their options. You can give information about the benefits and risks of the various options, and then support them in making the decision themselves.
What can you do to support someone
There are many things that people can do to provide legal support without giving legal advice. You can:
- provide general legal information (you can use our guide – this Toolkit – to do this)
- before somebody applies for asylum or immigration status, or while they are going through the process, sit down and go through the different stages and what can happen at each stage. You may want to use our Toolkit, materials available online, or your own personal or professional experience.
- research evidence on a country of origin or particular situation of the person you are supporting
- use your contacts to ask an expert to write a report to support the legal case
- help gather useful letters for the case – this might be from a school, Social Services, medical or mental health professionals, community groups
- read someone’s Reasons for Refusal Letter or court judgment and point out which parts of their story are being doubted
- find other case law or guidelines that these documents refer to
- explain the meaning of technical terms in legal documents
- type up what someone wants to say in response to a Reasons for Refusal Letter, or other negative decision, especially if they find written English difficult
- help someone talk to their lawyer (legal representative, sometimes people just use the word “solicitor”, if they are not comfortable doing this themselves
- help someone prepare for an asylum interview, asylum/human rights appeal, or judicial review hearing. This may be by providing emotional support, practical information about where they have to go and how to get there, explaining the lay-out and personnel of the court, or listening to someone give their testimony so that the first time they do this is not in a hostile setting.
- help someone prepare in case they are detained, and agree a plan of action for if they are detained.
- visit someone if they are detained
You will find more information about all of these actions as you go through this guide.