Evidence to be used to form policy proposals for consultation on new legal aid fees for asylum and immigration appeals
Ministry of Justice launches call for evidence on immigration legal aid fees and the online system in the First-tier Tribunal
08 November 2021
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) last week launched a new call for evidence on immigration legal aid fees and the impact of the online system in respect of immigration and asylum appeals to the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber).
Responses from all interested parties are welcomed and they can be submitted via an online survey here or via email to email@example.com. The 18-page call for evidence document here has further details.
Note that you have until December 2nd to respond.
Those suggested as interested parties who may wish to respond include members of the legal profession and their professional representative bodies, members of the judiciary, the Home Office, and legal services regulators.
The MOJ added: "Evidence gathered as part of this Call for Evidence, as well as the survey of legal aid providers, is intended to be used to form policy proposals for a forthcoming consultation on new legal aid fees for asylum and immigration appeals. These fees are intended to reflect the changes in tribunal process resulting from the introduction of the online system and ensure that legal aid practitioners are adequately remunerated for their work in representing some of the most vulnerable people in our society."
Meanwhile, the Legal Aid Agency announced last week that amendments were made to immigration and asylum legal aid on November 1st to allow 30 minutes of free advice to be given to immigration detainees held in prisons.
Before the amendments, only detainees held in immigration removal centres were able to receive 30 minutes of free legal advice under the Detained Duty Advice Scheme.
In the February 2021 case of SM, R (On the Application Of) v Bail for Immigration Detainees  EWHC 418 (Admin), the High Court ruled that the arrangements for immigration detainees held in prisons to access legal aid were unlawful.
The new change addresses the High Court's ruling and will allow 30 minutes of initial advice to be available to immigration detainees held in prisons without reference to means or merits.
Speaking to the Law Society Gazette, Jeremy Bloom of Duncan Lewis said that change was a very positive step to address the discrimination to which immigration detainees in prisons are subjected to, but the Government had not gone far enough.
Bloom was quoted as saying: "Despite a detailed evidence base of which the Lord Chancellor is well aware, he has limited the scheme to immigration detainees in prisons, when the reality is that people need legal advice from the moment that they find out that the Home Office intends to deport them. Failing to put a workable system in place that guarantees this will only increase late claims and overall costs on the system.'
In related news, Bella Sankey of Detention Action said on Twitter last week that the High Court had granted permission for a legal challenge to go ahead against the Lord Chancellor regarding the provision of legal advice to immigration detainees.
Sankey said the current system is a shambles, as inexperienced firms, who are unqualified to give the complex legal advice that is required, are being contracted and then left unmonitored.
The Independent provided background on the legal challenge in an article last month. It noted that Detention Action said errors are being made by some inexperienced lawyers which are often impossible for individuals to correct before removal from the UK.
"The stakes could not be higher, with access to justice being routinely denied to people who face death or torture if wrongly deported. The courts and the good firms that specialise in this difficult work are left to deal with the fallout of these costly failures," Bella Sankey said.
Rakesh Singh of the Public Law Project told The Independent: "The problem is that there are firms that are not doing what they have been contracted and paid to do, which has serious consequences for the rest of the system. The Lord Chancellor can take action to make sure that the system works properly, but he has failed to do anything effective about it."