The erosion of legal aid for migrants (and others!) over the years is no secret, and has been lamented by lawyers, advocates and ordinary individuals unable to gain access to support in trying to defend their right to live in the UK.
A report by Refugee Action and the No Accommodation Network (NACCOM) shows just how bad this erosion has been, and crucially, where it has been most drastic. Indeed, the effects of legal aid whittling have not been felt equally. They have created “legal deserts” in which individuals and families – who are often “resettled” across the UK as part of government policy – are effectively left without access to justice.
In “Tipping the Scales: Access to Justice in the Asylum System,” Refugee Action and NACCOM find that:
- Since 2005 56% of legal aid providers were lost
- The proportion of not-for-profit providers fell by 64% since 2005,
- There are 26 local authorities with more than 100 section 95 supported people and no local provision
Surveying migrant support organisations, the report also finds that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, government restrictions (introduced in 2012) have made it more difficult to refer people to legal aid services; some organisations said they can only refer people to solicitors if they have collected legal evidence themselves.
You can find a summary of the report, including shocking maps and graphs, here; the full report is accessible here. Please consider asking your MP to take action: there can be no fair and humane asylum system without effective access to justice.