A ground-breaking project at Devon Law Centre has found that asylum seekers are being wrongly refused publicly-funded legal representation for their asylum appeals in 79 per cent of cases, and that at least 30 per cent of these people have a legitimate claim to some form of protection.
Thursday 1 April 2010: The project’s final report warns that recent reforms to legal aid have made it harder for asylum seekers to get a fair hearing. The report includes several compelling case studies in which people were only recognised as refugees after the project had secured representation for them at appeal.
In one case, a Chinese woman who had been detained and tortured for her trade union activities was refused asylum at her first appeal where she was unrepresented, but was granted a second appeal, which she won, after the project obtained legal representation for her.
Since June 2007, the project has been referred 75 asylum seekers refused Controlled Legal Representation on the grounds that their cases had insufficient merit. Devon Law Centre appealed against those refusals to an Independent Funding Adjudicator in every case. 59 of those appeals were allowed.
Jean-Benoit Louveaux, the asylum appellate lawyer who runs the project, said:
“Asylum seekers come to the UK fleeing persecution such as torture, rape, indefinite imprisonment without trial, and extra-judicial execution. It is a damning indictment of the UK that those seeking sanctuary here are then denied a fair hearing.
The project has shown that recent reforms to legal aid have made it much harder for asylum seekers with a valid claim to prove their case.
If the project’s results were repeated across the country, it would mean that asylum seekers are being wrongly refused publicly-funded legal representation for their appeals in almost four out of every five cases – and that a significant number of these people have a legitimate claim to some form of protection. It is time we acknowledge that asylum seekers do not represent a large wave of illegal immigration but a small persecuted minority which the UK government has abandoned.”
For more information, and a copy of the report, please contact:
Clare Rudebeck, Communications Officer, Law Centres Federation: