UK: Public consultation on proposed changes to publicly funded immigration and asylum work: ILPA's response
The goverment is proposing to severely limit the funds available to lawyers to give advice in immigration and asylum cases. The Immigration Law Practitioners' Association was founded in 1984 and with 1,100 members is one of the leading organisations in the field. Below is their Summary of their submisssion and at the bottom of the page the full text of the 61 page submission is available.
i. ILPA has extremely serious concerns about the proposals to limit the amount of time which will be funded in immigration and asylum cases. They represent a gross and unjustifiable interference with basic principles of access to justice. It will become extremely hard to provide a professional, conscientious service within the time limits proposed. Quality of representation is secured not just by high levels of knowledge and experience, but by spending time on preparing cases. The proposals will drive out many good representatives from the sector, leading to a diminution of quality and even greater wastage of resources.
ii. The proposals reverse entirely the recent efforts by the LSC and the legal profession to encourage and develop high standards of advice. They are ill-considered and logically flawed: they propose to deal with poor representation by making it virtually impossible to provide good representation. No rational justification can be found in the Consultation Paper for such a radical shift in policy by the LSC, compared to its position only a few weeks ago.
iii. The effect of the proposals will be to restrict very significantly the availability of high-quality publicly funded advice and representation in immigration and asylum cases. It is clear from consultations with ILPA members that many of the most knowledgeable and conscientious representatives will simply cease to operate in the sector, or will severely reduce their caseloads.
iv. Nor will the proposals tackle the problem they purport to address, namely that of poor advice; on the contrary, they will drive the best representatives out of business whilst having no effect on those providing poor advice, other than swelling their numbers.
v. The effects of the proposed measures will be enormous and far-reaching:
" a large proportion of applicants will have no access to legal representation
" a large proportion of applicants will fall into the hands of poor-quality or unscrupulous representatives
" most publicly funded applicants will be unable to put forward their cases adequately
" significant numbers of practitioners, including many of those with the greatest knowledge and expertise, will withdraw entirely from the sector
" standards in the sector will be destroyed, in the absence of the peer-reviewers, trainers and mutual support networks needed to maintain quality
" the efficiency of the immigration and asylum system, particularly the appeals system, will be gravely affected by the proposals
" they will prevent proper scrutiny of the activities of the Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), resulting in ever greater wastage of public money by the IND
" greater pressure will be placed on the voluntary sector, including refugee and migrant community groups, which will be unable to cope
" Members of Parliament will also come under even greater pressure as the only available source of free advice to many refugees and migrants
vi. Above all, the proposals, if enacted, will lead to wrongful refusals of valid and meritorious applications. This means in reality the abuse of human rights on a major scale, whether it be asylum seekers returned to face imprisonment, torture or death because they cannot present their claims properly, or the separation of families, damage to people's health, the unfair deportation of UK residents or the unnecessary disruption of people's work and studies.
vii. The measures discriminate, in effect, against black and minority ethnic communities in the UK and risk an increase in racial tension.
viii. The measures will not save public money; indeed, they are likely to increase wastage of resources by increasing the inefficiency of the system. They fail to address the primary cause of wasted resources in the immigration and asylum system, namely the incompetence of the Home Office IND. Whilst accepting that this is technically outside the scope of the DCA or LSC, ILPA considers that this shows the lack of coherent thinking in government about the issue.
ix. The proposed accreditation scheme for practitioners in the sector, though not itself objectionable, is totally undermined by the proposed time limits. Accreditation can only operate within a system which encourages and rewards high-quality work. The effect of the time limits will be the opposite of this.
x. The proposal for a unique file number is again not objectionable in itself, but will not work if the number is to correspond to the Home Office reference number; the maladministration at the Home Office will prevent this idea from working and lead to injustice. Restricting the time spent on a case before the reference number is issued will also be counterproductive and unfair.
xi. ILPA believes that the measures are illogical, unjust and misconceived. ILPA strongly urges the government to abandon them in favour of a comprehensive and independent review of the immigration and asylum system as a whole, in order to improve both its fairness and its use of public money.
ILPA response (rtf file) ILPA response (pdf) ILPA: ilpa.org.uk
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