…By Joseph Benjamin for TDPel Media.
Several law firms have cut ties with asylum seeker clients, leaving them without legal representation, due to the lengthy delays in receiving legal aid funding.
Typically, legal aid funding is provided when a decision is made by the Home Office on an asylum case.
However, the combination of these funding delays and the prolonged asylum system process has led law firms to withdraw support from clients, citing financial unsustainability.
Home Office and its Response to Asylum System Strain
The Home Office attributes the strain on the asylum system to the “unacceptable number of people risking their lives by making these dangerous crossings.”
It acknowledges the unprecedented pressure on the system and claims to be implementing measures to address the issues at hand.
Oasis Cardiff’s Concerns and Clients’ Wellbeing
Oasis Cardiff, a charity providing support to asylum seekers, has expressed concerns about the lack of legal representation and its impact on the individuals already navigating a complex system.
The charity has observed an increase in individuals seeking urgent support related to this issue.
It highlights the frustration faced by law firms, but also emphasizes the implications and effects on their clients’ wellbeing.
Law Firms’ Frustration with the Home Office
Unidentified law firms in Cardiff have voiced their frustration, attributing their decision to withdraw from asylum cases to years of delayed payments and high operating costs.
They criticize the Home Office’s long-standing failure to progress asylum claims and current immigration policies, which have made it financially unsustainable for them to continue offering Legally Aided work.
The Lengthy Asylum Process and Access to Justice Concerns
The asylum process for clients of Oasis Cardiff typically takes around three years, but can vary from six months to over two decades.
Asylum seekers usually have no right to work until their claims are approved and rely on legal aid for legal advice.
Lawyers in the sector highlight the challenges they face, including prolonged waiting times, misadministration, and a lack of progress.
This creates frustration for both lawyers and their clients, compromising access to justice.
Concerns for the Future of Immigration and Asylum Law
Young lawyers working in immigration and asylum cases face overwork, financial sustainability issues, and serious emotional and wellbeing concerns.
A report by Young Legal Aid Lawyers and Public Law Project highlights these concerns and emphasizes the need for free assistance to ensure meaningful access to justice.
The report also raises concerns about the future of the sector and the unpaid work young lawyers often undertake outside their contracted hours.
Home Office Response and Plans
The Home Office states that it is taking immediate action to address the backlog in the asylum system.
This includes doubling the number of asylum caseworkers and streamlining interviews and paperwork.
The government is also introducing legislation to detain those who arrive illegally and promptly remove them to their country of origin or a safe third country, aiming to prevent further dangerous crossings.
Conclusion: Struggles of Asylum Seekers and Legal Aid Issues
Asylum seekers in Cardiff and elsewhere are left without legal representation as law firms withdraw from their cases due to delays in receiving legal aid funding.
The strain on the asylum system, combined with prolonged waiting times, has led law firms to deem the provision of assistance financially unsustainable.
Asylum seekers now face the challenge of finding new representation, while other firms may have limited capacity or are unwilling to take on new asylum clients.
The situation raises concerns about access to justice and the impact on the wellbeing and integration of asylum seekers.