According to a spokesperson from the charity “Refugee and Migrant Justice”  recent changes in the U.K “Legal Aid” system are putting the lives of up to ten thousand asylum seekers (including hundreds of children) at risk:

“We are facing possible closure as a result of a new system of payment of legal aid whereby payments are only made when stages are closed – which in our case is on average 6 months after work is started and can take up to two years. We are not asking for more money, just prompt payment of what we are due…

…the possible closure of Refugee and Migrant Justice will affect 10 000 asylum seekers in the UK; they will be left without legal representation, and may be forced to return to persecution, torture, and the threat of death. 900 of our clients at the moment are children.

We have been in private touch with the new Ministers but, despite some sympathy in the Home Office from Damian Green have just received a negative response from a junior Ministry of Justice Minister. So we are launching a public campaign.

We managed to get a letter of support out yesterday, signed by various public figures, and hope that this will put some pressure on the government. However, that alone is not enough. We are encouraging people to write to Ken Clarke in protest at our closure; we also want to raise awareness of the situation as widely as possible, in as many different sectors as we can.”

Possible closure of the charity looms: “As a result of a new system of payment of legal aid whereby payments are only made when stages are closed – which in our case is on average 6 months after work is started and can take up to two years”.

“We are not asking for more money” says the charity “just prompt payment of what we are due”.  

Who will be affected: (statement by Refugee and Migrant Justice)

Asylum seekers who have fled their homes and families in fear of persecution or death. Home Office officials often fail to identify asylum seekers in need of protection, including those with additional vulnerabilities, such as victims of torture, rape or trafficking. Thousands of asylum seekers are detained each year having committed no crime. They are given no indication of the length of detention and can be kept for months or years.

Children who have travelled to the U.K with or without their families. Many children are treated as adults by the Home Office. Even those who are accepted as children can face an intimidating culture of disbelief when telling their story and are interviewed without legal representation or an independent adult present. Refugee and Migrant Justice fights to help them secure protection and a real chance of a future. The Government has announced that it will end the detention of children, but many will continue to be detained while it is deciding what alternative arrangements it will put in place.

Victims of trafficking for labour or sexual exploitation. Refugee and Migrant Justice works to make sure victims of trafficking are given the legal protection they deserve and campaign to stop victims of trafficking being prosecuted for ‘crimes’ committed under duress. 

For more information contact Refugee and Migrant Justice. 

Read these blog posts alongside this piece: Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre and the 2010 hunger strike.

Email interview I conducted with a Home Office spokesperson earlier this year, in which Meg Hillier describes her views on the legal assistance available to asylum seekers and their families.

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