The latest edition of BID's Legal Advice Survey report has been published today.
New research on legal advice in immigration removal centres presents concerns about access to justice for people held under immigration powers. The results paint a stark picture of the difficulties accessing legal advice while being detained.
BID found that 43% of respondents didn't have legal representation. For those who were previously held in prisons, the situation is even more dire, with only 1 respondent out of 29 having received immigration advice from a lawyer whilst in prison.
The reasons behind low representation varied, but these included financial reasons and being told that by lawyers that they did not have the capacity to take on a case.
There are also practical barriers which impede access to knowledge and communication. 66% of those trying to access information online, found that many websites, which could help people research their case, were blocked.
BID recommends the end of immigration detention. However, while detention continues to exist, we propose the following recommendations to ensure that everyone has meaningful access to justice.
- Anyone detained under immigration powers should be allocated a legal aid lawyer upon entering detention and they should retain the lawyer until either they have been removed from the UK or they have been granted leave to remain in the UK.
- Anyone held in immigration detention should be allocated a legal aid lawyer in relation to their detention matter, both in relation to their first application for bail and any further bail applications.
- We support the recommendation by the Joint Committee on Human Rights that “initial legal advice appointments under the Detention Duty Advice scheme should be made automatically unless the individual opts out.”
- An end to the use of prisons for immigration detention. Prisons are used for punitive purposes and often create insurmountable barriers to access legal aid advice.
- The automatic allocation of legal aid for the purpose of representation at a bail hearing, without reference to a merit test.
- Legal aid withdrawn under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) should be restored. Any immigration decision, including first-stage deportation notice, should be accompanied by legal advice and representation via a legal aid lawyer allocated to a person when they enter immigration detention or when they are faced with an immigration matter while detained.
- The DDA scheme in IRCs should be reviewed.
More details are included in the report.