Plight of Asylum Seekers and Refugees Augments
As IAS Closes Its Doors
By Pa Modou Bojang in UK - 12/8/2011
Following a 10% cut in legal aid fees for refugees seeking asylum in the UK, the UK best known legal firm that are helping asylum seekers and refuges in their various cases, the Immigration Advisory Services (IAS), has closed all its doors within the UK as the firm has been undergoing in administration.
The Immigration Advisory Service (IAS) is the largest provider of publically funded immigration and asylum legal advice and has been in existence for 35 years, employing some 300 staff at 14 locations across England and Scotland. It was renowned for the large number of important legal precedent cases which it has taken through the courts, including the courts of justice of the European Union and the European court of Human Rights.
According to the letter sent to all IAS clients, the government recent proposals for the legal aid system included the removal of immigration from the scope of legal aid, and a 10% cut in legal aid fees for refugees seeking asylum within the UK. The letter further explained that Immigration accounted for around 60% of IAS’ income. The IAS, according to the letter written by the joint administrators of the company, Joanne Milner and SR Cork, the IAS has been in discussion with the legal service commission (LSC) in an attempt to gain support for a solvent restructure of its operations and has also tried to reach an agreement with LSC for an extended period to repay monies which, (in common with many other firms) had been claimed in error, partly, in IAS view, due to the complex funding rules in place. The legal aid cuts put IAS in the position of needing to fund any repayment of these monies, from a much reduced income base, and as a result it was not proved possible to reach agreement on a way forward.
The IAS trustees regrettably decided that all venues of support had been exhausted for IAS to seek a solvent restructure, and that they have no alternative but to place the organization into administration. The administrators were said to be working closely with the legal service commission (legal aid) to try to ensure that appropriate arrangements are made for all of IAS’s clients, while clients are advised to monitor IAS website where updates on arrangements will be posted.
IAS further advised all its clients not to visit any of its offices, “even if they had appointment booked as all offices are now closed to such visit”.
The letter to the IAS clients stated “from the 8 July 2011 IAS cannot do any more work on your case. To protect your legal position as far as possible in the circumstances the following has been done.”
The administrators had further written to all courts informing them that IAS is in administration, while asking the courts to deal sympathetically with application for extension of time.
This unexpected closure of the IAS has confused and even increased the plight of many asylum seekers in the UK who have their cases pending in courts. Many asylum seekers in the UK rely on IAS through the legal aid to assist them in their asylum claim and now that IAS has called a quit, many asylum seekers have begun to doubt about the motive behind the sudden closure of the Immigration Advisory Services. Many affected asylum seekers I have spoken to in Liverpool and other places within the United Kingdom have expressed their fear about what would happen to their cases since they could not afford to hire private solicitors for their representation.
Liverpool is the most affected area as only three legal firms receive legal aid including the IAS. The office of Jackson and Canter solicitors in Liverpool city centre was stormed last Monday by desperate clients of the defunct IAS in quest of representation. According to an insider at Jackson and Canter solicitors, only those facing removal or have their appeal pending in courts would be given priority, while those who fail to fall in that category have to wait until the backload is clear. Those, whose cases were not accepted by Jackson & Canters, were directed to Lei Dat & Beig solicitors for assistance.
90% of asylum seekers in the UK rely on the legal aid for their immigration matters as they could not afford to pay private firms to represent them.
Speaking to an asylum seeker who prefer to be anonymous, expressed thanks and appreciation to the defunct IAS for their wonderful services they have been rendering to him and he further lamented “I am really disappointed about the closure of IAS as they have been rendering quality representation for me”
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