As many as 1 in 5 people held in Immigration Removal Centres have never had legal representation during their detention, according to new data from BID.
The findings, revealed in the latest edition of BID’s Legal Advice Survey, demonstrate the desperate situation created by the removal of legal aid for people facing deportation from the UK. Only half of those surveyed currently have legal representation, with just a quarter of detainees able to access legal aid.
Commenting on the findings, BID’s Policy & Research Manager John Hopgood said:
“The situation described by detainees – while hardly a surprise – underlines the bleak situation that people being held in immigration detention face.
“Government statistics published only last week show that almost 30,000 people were detained in the last 12 months – but less than half of those people were deported from the UK. For the other 15,000 people, their time in detention has been totally unjustified, a frustrating, often scary experience, away from their families and without the legal help and advice necessary to challenge the situation they find themselves in.
“The attack on legal aid three years ago continues to have a devastating impact on the ability of people to access justice. People held in detention centres are among the most marginalised in society. The government detains them purely for administrative reasons, and then denies them the information and legal advice they need to challenge that detention.
“Hard as it is to believe, the situation is even worse for the growing number of immigration detainees inappropriately held in prisons. There, only 1 in 20 has access to any kind of independent legal advice about their immigration case.
“The government pays out £4,000,000 in compensation for unlawfully detaining people each year. Their callous disregard for the rights of detainees to have access to justice is clear from our survey.
“It is completely unacceptable for anybody held in detention not to have access to legal advice. That as many as 20% of all detainees find themselves in that situation is beyond belief, and the only way to right this wrong is to ensure that legal aid is automatically available to the people who need it the most.”
The survey results are available here.