- 49% of detainees do not currently have a legal representative. 54% of those with a lawyer have a legal aid lawyer
- 53% of those without a lawyer cited money as the main reason for not having a lawyer
- 83% of those who had tried to work on their case had found potentially useful websites blocked from within detention
- Only 7 out of 40 detainees who were previously held on the prison estate received any immigration advice while in prison
BID spoke to 76 detainees held in Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) across the country. 49% of detainees do not currently have a legal representative, and of those, just over half (54%) had a legal aid solicitor, just over a quarter of those interviewed.
The legal aid cuts implemented under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (“LASPO”) removed non-asylum immigration cases from the scope of legal aid funding even though bail itself remains within scope. Indeed, BID’s research shows that for those at the sharp end of Home Office decision-making, access to justice is largely a function of wealth. In 2012, prior to the legal aid cuts, 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, 53% of those currently without a solicitor cited money as the main reason they did not have one. One in five (21%) of respondents had never had a solicitor while in immigration detention.
Initial access to the legal aid lawyers is limited to a 30 minute slot and the quality of advice is highly variable. Only 13% of individuals who had attended one such appointment had actually received specific advice about their case. For those with legal representation, 51% said their lawyer had not done a single bail application for them.
Lack of legal advice and representation forces many people to work on their own immigration case. This is far from ideal given the complexity of immigration law – the Immigration Rules have more than doubled in length since they were drafted, running at over 1000 pages, and there have been 5,700 changes to the Immigration Rules since 2010 with 230,000 words added. In addition, 83% of people who had used the internet to research their case told BID that websites which could help them prepare their case were blocked from within detention, including the websites of the Home Office, BID and other charities.
The situation is worse still for those held in prisons under immigration powers, as there is no system for the provision of immigration legal advice in prisons. Many of those held under immigration powers are long-term residents, including EEA nationals, who are issued with deportation orders despite having strong Article 8 claims. Such individuals face multiple and compounding barriers to challenging their deportation as well as their ongoing detention. Of the 40 individuals that BID spoke to who had been transferred from a prison to an IRC, only 7 had received advice on their case from an immigration legal practitioner.
Recent statistics show that the Home Office now loses most of its appeals. Now more than ever it is vital that that people have access to legal advice and representation to challenge the Home office’s extensive powers of detention and deportation.
Celia Clarke, BID’s director, commented: “Just when we think things can’t get worse for people in detention, our latest research confirms what we observe in our work. It is unimaginable that people who are deprived of their liberty for the administrative convenience of the government, should not have automatic legal representation to challenge that detention and secure their release. Detention is hugely damaging for those subjected to it and to deny people access to justice is completely unacceptable. These figures should shame us all. The end of detention is long overdue.”
click here to see the results of the survey
 Martha Bozic, Caelainn Barrm, Niamh McIntyre and Poppy Noor, “Revealed: immigration rules in UK more than double in length”, The Guardian, 27 August 2018, retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/aug/27/revealed-immigration-rules-have-more-than-doubled-in-length-since-2010