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BID: Prisoners detained under immigration powers are denied access to legal advice


Bail for Immigration Detainees finds just 22% of detainees in prison have an immigration solicitor

Date of Publication:
13 February 2017

A new report by Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) says hundreds of foreign nationals held under immigration powers in prisons in the UK are being denied access to immigration advice.

Image credit: WikipediaThe brief 4-page report, Mind the Gap: Immigration Advice for Detainees in Prisons, is here.

According to the report, a total of 5,581 people were being detained under immigration powers in prisons in the UK as of September 2016.

The report's key findings are:

• Just 22% (4 out of 18) detainees currently held in prison have an immigration solicitor.

• Only one in twenty respondents had received any independent advice about their immigration case while held in prison.

• Most detainees are given less than 2 weeks' notice that they will be held in detention beyond the end of their criminal sentence, with many told on the day they were due to be released.

• Detainees in prison are routinely denied access to basic information that might help their immigration case, despite it being readily available in Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs).

In researching the report, BID spoke to 18 current clients held in immigration detention in prison, and a further 68 clients who had been held in prison before being transferred to an IRC.

Of those 86 people, just five reported that they had received 'independent' advice about their immigration case.

Of the 18 people being held in prison, only four had a solicitor, and just two of them had been able to secure representation through legal aid.

BID found that the rate of legal representation for detainees in prisons for their immigration matter is half that of those in IRCs.

The report noted: "Access to free legal advice is non-existent in prison – there are no legal aid surgeries, no dedicated legal aid provider. The only access to free immigration advice detainees in prison get is from organisations such as BID, who seek them out – and our capacity can only stretch so far."

BID's Policy and Research Manager, John Hopgood, was quoted as saying: "Less than a quarter of immigration detainees in prison have access to an immigration solicitor. Less than 5% can access any independent immigration advice. These findings wouldn't seem out of place on some Human Rights Watch list, but they're actually from right here in the UK.

"The hidden use of prisons as a place to hold immigration detainees is continuing at an unprecedented level, and in many cases it leads to a fundamental breach of detainees' rights to access justice. If any British citizen, anywhere in the world, was kept – without warning – in prison after they had finished serving a criminal sentence there would, rightly, be uproar. Yet the British government routinely holds foreign nationals in exactly that manner.

"Almost half the detainees we spoke to while carrying out this research were only told of their detention on the day they expected to be released. That is a shocking abuse of power.

Hopgood said such denial of justice was unacceptable.