Research published today sheds light on the extent to which immigration detainees are denied access to justice. The survey, collected by charity Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), is the only data collected on the availability of legal advice and representation in immigration detention.
BID spoke to 103 detainees being held in Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) across the country. The results are striking. Only 50% of detainees held in immigration detention currently have a legal representative, and of those, only 61% of those have a legal aid solicitor.
The situation is even worse for people held in prisons under immigration powers. Out of 50 detainees who had moved from prison to detention, only 3 had received immigration advice from a solicitor while in prison (6%).
For those who booked an appointment with the legal aid solicitor in detention, two thirds had to wait more than a week, and just 20% received specific advice about their case.
As many as 74% had worked on their own immigration case, but most of these detainees (73%) complained that important websites were blocked in detention. The websites they referred to were those that would have helped them to prepare their case: Home Office website, Government websites, solicitors’ websites, social media, BID and other NGOs.
A comparison of the data from this survey with that from previous surveys undertaken by BID shows that the situation has significantly worsened. In 2012, prior to the implementation of the legal aid cuts implemented under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act, BID’s legal advice survey found that 79% of those held in immigration detention had a legal representative, and 75% of them were funded by legal aid. Today, less than a third have a representative funded by legal aid. BID’s survey reveals that 57% of detainees without a legal representative cited money as the main reason they were unable to get legal assistance.
It is simply unacceptable to deprive people of their liberty without ensuring appropriate access to legal advice and representation.
Celia Clarke, BID’s Director, commented:
“These results once again highlight the scale of injustice in our immigration detention system. It is an outrage that 50% of detainees do not have a legal representative. Not only does the Home Office lock individuals up without trial, separating families and damaging vulnerable people, detainees are denied the legal representation that would enable them to challenge these decisions.“
To view a summary of the findings please click here.