New research published today by the charity Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) reveals that access to legal representation for those held in immigration detention is seriously lacking. BID’s research is the only data collected on the availability of legal advice and representation in immigration detention.
101 detainees being held in Immigration Removal centres (IRCs) were interviewed in the survey and the findings are stark:
- Only 44% detainees held in immigration detention currently have a legal representative. And only 55% of those have a legal aid solicitor.
- Almost a third of detainees (29%) have never had a legal representative while in immigration detention.
- Just 10% of detainees who were moved from prison to a detention centre received any legal advice about their immigration case while they were in prison.
A comparison of the data from this survey with that from previous surveys undertaken by BID shows that the situation is worsening. At present almost 1 in 3 detainees have never had a legal representative whilst in detention, compared to 1 in 5 this time last year.
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 quarter have a representative funded by legal aid. 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 findings are among the worst we have seen in the seven years of surveying immigration detainees. It is disgraceful that nearly a third of our sample had never had legal representation while in immigration detention. Everyone held in detention should be able to access legal advice and representation, particularly as people’s liberty and family life is at stake. A system which requires people to navigate their way through complex immigration law without legal assistance is unfair and cruel.”