Government plans to axe asylum legal aid - Refugee Council
November 25, 2003

Government plans to axe asylum legal aid

The Guardian

The Guardian newspaper today reports that the Home Secretary David Blunkett is to announce on Thursday proposals to cut completely legal aid for asylum seekers’ applications. He will, according to The Guardian, drop previous proposals to severely limit publicly funded legal help for asylum cases, to put forward this even more draconian plan.

Responding to the report, the Refugee Council’s Chief Executive Maeve Sherlock commented:

“If the reports are correct the Government seems to be suggesting effectively removing legal advice to asylum seekers when making their initial applications. We require lawyers to help us move house and get divorced, yet the Government suggests we do not need them when we have fled tryanny and are frightened for our lives.

“This is an astounding precedent and will deny justice to refugees. It is extraordinary to expect asylum seekers to have the legal knowledge to negotiate the complex legal minefield of international refugee law. Good legal representation may be all that stops a refugee being sent home to torture or worse.

“The Government would like fewer appeals, but the reason there are lots of appeals is that the people making the initial decisions in the Home Office get the decisions wrong so much of the time.

“If the Legal Services Commission must decide entitlement to legal aid on each case this will cause even greater delays in the system, when over a fifth of appeals are currently successful.”

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