Beacon: training for McKenzie friends

WELCOMING THE STRANGER

INTRODUCTION: Each year thousands of asylum seekers, fleeing persecution in their own countries, come as strangers to seek refuge in the United Kingdom. By the summer of 2005 a number of churches in Bradford were finding asylum seekers in their congregations. Not only did these newcomers enrich the worship and fellowship of those congregations but local people and ministers began to discover the real hardships that asylum seekers face. BEACON was set up out of a shared concern to address the practical and spiritual needs of the many asylum seekers and refugees who now live in the Bradford district. It is an ecumenical response to fulfil the Biblical injunction to welcome the stranger, but seeks to work with other faith groups and secular agencies to offer care and support to asylum seekers. Our meetings are well attended by Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Roman Catholics and Quakers, including people involved with BIASAN (Bradford Immigration and Asylum Support and Advice Network), Bradford Action for Refugees and the Red Cross. Most of the people attending have come to know asylum seekers and refugees and can see the urgent need for the churches of Bradford to work together in responding to their needs. Continue reading

ILPA: THE ‘INS AND OUTS’ OF TRANSFORMING LEGAL AID: More outs and than ins

Please write to your MP with the following information:

SUMMARY
The results of the proposed changes would be that persons who have a good case with excellent prospects of
success will
• Not be able to bring that case because they cannot pay
• Unable to find a legal aid lawyer to bring the case even if they are eligible.
The main proposals which will further limit access to justice are2:
• a residence test for civil legal aid claimants;
• a reduction of legal aid for judicial review;
• amendments to the civil merits test to prevent the funding of any cases with less than a 50% chance
of success.
The proposed changes will deny legal protection to poor litigants and so directly undermine the rule of law.

I. THE RESIDENCE TEST: removing legal aid for those without ‘strong connections’ to the UK Legal Aid providers will be required to carry out the following residence test (and retain evidence on file for audit):

The individual applying for civil legal aid must:
(i) be “lawfully resident” in the UK (etc.) at the date of the application for civil legal aid; and
(ii) be or have been “lawfully resident” in the UK (etc.) continuously for 12 months.

Asylum-seeker exception
Asylum-seekers (“lawfully present”) are exempt from the residence test. However, on the grant of leave to remain (e.g. as a refugee or person given humanitarian protection) an asylum seeker becomes “lawfully resident” and therefore although on-going civil legal aid funding will continue, the 12-month lawful residence test will apply to any post-grant application for funding. An asylum seeker whose claim is rejected and has exhausted all rights of appeal ceases to qualify for legal aid under the exception and funding will cease. Only where a fresh claim for asylum has been ‘made’ would they (again) benefit from the asylum seeker exception. They do not qualify for legal aid to make that fresh claim.

II. JUDICIAL REVIEW: removing legal aid for permission applications
Legal Aid providers will only be paid for work carried out on an application for permission (including a request for reconsideration of the application at a hearing, the renewal hearing or an onward permission appeal to the Court of Appeal), IF the Court grants permission. The work would be “at risk.”

Legal Aid (subject to the residence test) would continue to be paid, as now, to investigate the strength of a claim and to engage in pre-action correspondence aimed at avoiding proceedings under Legal Help or Investigative Representation funding. Where a permission application was made the claimant would continue to be technically in receipt of legal aid for the permission stage of the case, and so would continue to benefit from cost protection, and would therefore not be personally at risk of paying costs if the permission application were unsuccessful. The successful Legal Aid provider could seek to recover their costs either as part of a settlement between the parties or through a costs order from the court.

Reasonable disbursements, such as expert fees and court fees, which arise in preparing the permission application, would continue to be paid, even if permission was not granted by the Court.

III. Merits test – removing legal aid for borderline cases
Cases must generally have at least a 50% chance of success to receive legal aid funding for full representation (i.e. must have a moderate or better prospects of success). However, at the moment, there are certain housing or family cases, which receive funding with borderline prospects of success and in other cases funding will be available if there is a borderline prospect of success and the case has special features: it is of significant wider public interest or overwhelming importance to the individual). Funding may also be granted in public law claims, claims against public authorities and certain immigration and family claims which have these special features or if the substance of the case relates to a breach of human rights. It is proposed to abolish all borderline funding including in asylum cases assessed as having ‘borderline’ prospects of success.

IV Other changes 

(a) Cuts to legal Aid for prisoners will affect foreign national prisoners including the mentally ill.
(b) Barristers’ fees will be cut to the level paid to other advocates. The justification given is to harmonise fees but raising the payments, which have not risen since 2001, for all, is not considered.
(c) Cuts to payments for immigration and asylum cases in the Upper Tribunal. The justification given is that there was originally a higher rate for these cases because they were ‘at risk’ (see comments on judicial review above) and now only asking the Upper Tribunal for permission to appeal is at risk, the uplift will be removed. This ignores the way the uplift has masked the low underlying payment.
(d) Expert fees will be reduced by 20%.

COMMENT
Those who will be excluded from legal aid under the proposals will include:
• trafficked persons, separated children, survivors of domestic violence and detainees
• trafficked persons who do not have a claim for asylum (which is about risk on return, not what has been suffered in the past);
• those whose claims for asylum have failed, but who cannot be removed. There will be no Legal Aid to assist such persons to make further representations (including a fresh claim for asylum), a claim for damages for false imprisonment, and/or challenge decisions denying support and accommodation;
• Those facing removal or deportation whose challenges are based on rights to private and family life, rather than asylum claims.
• Legal Aid practitioners will have to cope with the proposals against the background of mounting restrictions in Legal Aid Agency (LAA LAA) contracts. Legal aid firms and organisations, especially not for profits that cannot balance reduced earnings from legal aid with increased private work, are in many cases struggling to survive. Any chance disturbs whatever precarious equilibrium they have reached. Many have, however good they are and however good LAA LAA thinks they are, been able to secure a contract for only 100 legal aid cases at the initial stages, and have built the types of work now under attack into their survival strategy. With so little wriggle room it is difficult to do very much work at risk.

The ILPA paper ends: 

This is not an immigration problem or even a legal aid problem. It is a problem about access to justice, about
equality of arms, about holding the State to account

http://www.ilpa.org.uk/data/resources/17778/13.04.26-IPA-note-on-Transforming-Legal-Aidpdf.pdf

EDD 139 Choice Of Legal Aid Lawyer: “Eddie Stobart” legal aid contracts

This relates to those in the asylum system as these firms will be handling cases where people have offences relating to passports etc.  that take them to the criminal court.  How soon before they provide immigration legal aid as well?

Please ask your MP to sign:

Early Day Motion 139: Choice Of Legal Aid Lawyer
That this House notes the proposed changes to criminal legal aid; is concerned at the removal of the option for the client to make a choice between different solicitors; and calls on the Government to review its proposals to reintroduce a choice for the client.

Sponsors: Hemming, John/ Bottomley, Peter
House of Commons: 20.05.2013

http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/139

On Tuesday 21 May, a protest against the legal aid cuts took place outside of the Manchester Crown Court. Over 300 Lawyers and barristers protested their anger at what they saw as an attack on the legal system, marching down to the Place Hotel where Justice Secretary Chris Grayling and others were holding a conference.

Photograph: Keith Dewsnup

The Ministry of Justice issued on 9 April a consultation paper entitled ‘Transforming Legal Aid’. The proposals would make prisoners and immigrants who have been in the country for less than one year no longer eligible for legal aid. Continue reading

G4S: Outsourcer Nick Buckles retires at 52, a multimillionaire

Security company G4S and its executives have got rich dismantling public services.
http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/outsourcer-nick-buckles-retires-at-52-multimillionaire

Yesterday a man called Nick Buckles retired, aged 52, with a fortune in excess of £20 million. He is not an inventor or an entrepreneur. He has not risked his own capital. He is a company executive who has got rich from Britain’s outsourcing boom. Continue reading

Detention of Torture Survivors Ruled Unlawful

The High Court judge has today ruled that the detention of torture survivors by the British Government was unlawful following legal action brought against the Home Office on behalf of five victims of torture who had been subjected to lengthy periods of detention in Immigration Removal Centres.
Law firm Leigh Day represented the five claimants whose claims were brought with the assistance of the charity Medical Justice and the Helen Bamber Foundation in order to highlight the systemic failings in the application of the Home Office’s own policy that where there is independent evidence that an individual has been the victim of torture, they should only be detained in very exceptional circumstances.  Continue reading

UKBA failing to make correct decisions on asylum applications

Report by ‘Still Human, Still Here’ demonstrated UKBA failing to make correct decisions on asylum applications(Ctrl+Click here for full article by STAR (Student Action for Refugees))

In the last 3 years, more than a quarter of initial decisions made by the UKBA to refuse asylum have been overturned on appeal. A report published by Amnesty International and the Still Human Still Here coalition looks at why this is happening. Continue reading

Release Abdul Ghafar Rajabali from detention

QARN members will be aware that the situation of people being removed to unsafe countries is not unusual.  Leicester City of Sanctuary and other people are finding out how the system operates and have been very active to prevent the removal of Abdul Ghafar Rajabali, a 23 year old from Afghanistan who has made his home in Leicester. He has been detained and is facing deportation to Afghanistan.

Abdul faced terrible persecution in Afghanistan: his father was Russian and when Abdul was a baby, his parents and all his family were murdered. Continue reading

UK Immigration Courts: fresh observations from the Public Gallery

Two years ago trained members of the public attending immigration bail hearings published their first report, “A Travesty of Justice”. Today the Bail Observation Project reports again. Unfairness and lack of due process persist.

“I am not going to abscond.  I trust myself not to. This place is getting into me. Home Office can’t get travel documents. I beg you, I bow down, let me out of here.”

These were the words of a man from Gambia, who had been detained in an immigration removal centre and was applying for bail.  He had been held for seven months and this was his third application. Like the previous applications it was turned down. He was not physically present in the court but sitting alone in a room in Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre near Heathrow Airport. He was facing a screen which provided a video link to a hearing centre near London. He had no legal representative and no one to stand surety for him.  Continue reading

Asylum Seekers and Migrants on Hunger Strike

Blog post by NCADC volunteer, Sarah McCarthyFor centuries, hunger strikes have been a powerful form of protest, usually used as a last resort by the most desperate. Currently, over 100 of the remaining 166 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay are engaged in a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention and inhumane treatment. Across the globe, there are many people taking the same action, including asylum seekers and migrants in several countries. These are just some of the stories so far in 2013. Continue reading