William Eichler 27 May 2022

Refugees at risk of deportation due to legal aid shorfall

Refugees at risk of deportation due to legal aid shorfall image
Image: Halfpoint/Shutterstock.com.

People seeking asylum are at risk of deportation because of a lack of legal aid provision in many areas, a new report has revealed.

Published by the charity Refugee Action, No access to justice: how legal advice deserts fail refugees, migrants and our communities, found that some cities to which people seeking asylum are sent – including Plymouth, Stoke and Hull – only have one legal aid caseworker.

The report also found that local authority areas such as Cumbria, North Cheshire, Durham, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Surrey, West Sussex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and Lincolnshire among others have no provision at all, while there is a near total lack of legal aid professionals along the south coast, the report highlights.

Refugee Action, which commissioned legal aid expert Dr Jo Wilding to research and write the report, said the huge deficit leaves people with meritorious claims for asylum at high risk of forced return or deportation to Rwanda.

Report author Dr Jo Wilding said: ‘This is the first piece of research that looks at access to immigration and asylum legal advice across the whole UK, and it shows there’s a deficit in every region of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and a deficit across the country as a whole.

‘It means that people are missing out on refugee status or immigration status that they’re entitled to, and driving poverty and destitution in the UK as a result.’

Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive of Refugee Action, commented: ‘It’s hugely concerning that accessing justice is so difficult at a time when the Government is tearing up its legal obligations to refugees.

‘People who do not get advice are put at a huge disadvantage when their claim for asylum is being assessed.

‘Too many errors are already made on asylum decisions. With refugees being sent to remote accommodation centres, 5000 miles away to Rwanda, or home to face violence and persecution, it’s vital they can get legal advice.’

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