Deportees ‘routinely denied’ access to justice prior to removal, lawyers warn

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Lawyers have warned that last-minute legal claims are being brought by people facing deportation because of the “shabby” legal advice system in eviction centers.

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Charity Detention Action says people facing expulsion from the UK are being “at risk of death” as they are “routinely denied” reasonable access to justice before being removed.

The warnings contradict the Home Secretary’s recent claims that “last-minute tactics” are being used by “activist lawyers” to deliberately “delay and obstruct” the returns of people without valid cases.

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The government is facing a legal challenge over the provision of legal advice to immigration detainees, with claims that the current system forces people to rely on lawyers “less than competent” to represent them.

Under the Detented Duty Advice Scheme (DDAS), the government contracts a number of law firms to attend legal advice surgeries in eviction centers across England during which detainees can receive up to 30 minutes of free legal advice regardless of financial eligibility .

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Detention Action says the scheme is contracting “inexperienced” legal advisors to provide this advice, and that errors made by lawyers are “often impossible” to cause “irreparable harm” to individuals before their removal from the UK. “Can be cured by putting the risk of encountering.

former prisoners told Granthshala Lawyers assigned to him under the plan did “nothing” to aid his case for weeks, and it was only when NGOs intervened to get him in touch with an outside lawyer that they could challenge his removal instructions. are able to give.

A 45-year-old woman, who has recently been granted refugee status, said the lawyer she was allotted to her when she signed up to the DDAS when she was detained at Yarls Wood in 2019 helped her with her legal case. did nothing for

The Botswana citizen, who had fled violent abuse from her family, said: “When we met for the second time she told me she thought my case was not strong so I needed to go home.

“I was really scared to go back home. I stopped eating. I started thinking of killing myself. I was thinking they might come and pick me up anytime. It really affected my mental health. did. “

After six weeks – at which point she was given instructions to be removed – the woman spoke to another detainee who suggested she be in contact with Charity Medical Justice, who in turn put her in contact with Duncan Lewis Solicitor, who Took his case. His expulsion was later rescinded.

“I am very grateful to these two organizations. Earlier, I was not getting any help. They would have to give more information to the detainees. If I had not spoken to that detainee, I would not have found anyone to help me. “

In court presentations, Detention Action reports a number of cases of detainees who, after receiving little or no help from their DDAS attorneys, eventually received alternative advice – usually with the help of an NGO – sometimes their prescribed Only days or hours before expulsion. .

Bella Sankey, Director of Detention Action, said: “Over the past three years, the Lord Chancellor has, by contracting out a number of inexperienced firms, who are unfit to provide the necessary complex advice and then leaving them without monitoring, the legal advice system in detention centres. has reduced.

“The stakes couldn’t be higher, with access to justice routinely denied to those who face death or torture if wrongfully exiled. Courts and good firms that specialize in this difficult job, These costly failures are left to deal with the repercussions.”

Rakesh Singh of the Public Law Project, which is working for Detention Action in the case, said that while there were some “hardworking” immigration lawyers on DDAS, several law firms awarded contracts in 2018 had “no track record”.

“The problem is that there are firms that are not doing what they have been contracted and paid to do, which has dire consequences for the rest of the system. The Lord Chancellor can take action to ensure that That the system should work properly, but he has failed to do anything effective about it,” he said.

Detention Action said in its court submission that law firms have been permitted to continue to provide legal advice under the DDAS, although “serious concerns” have been found in their practice. There is also concern that some may have no competence or authority to undertake judicial review – which is often the only legal remedy a detainee has.

Pierre Makhlouf, the legal director of Immigration Detainees for Bail, said he was concerned about the “poor quality” of advice sometimes provided and the “failure of some consultants to take cases”.

He said that these failures “left many in immigration detentions unable to receive the necessary advice”, which he needed to add: “This means that those with meritorious cases are being thwarted by the system, to families. being isolated and unjustly deported from the UK.” ”

A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring that all individuals in immigration removal centers have access to the legal assistance they need, and that they can easily contact their legal representatives by telephone, email and video call.

“All legal providers operating under DDAS are required to have Law Society accreditation and providers are subject to peer review and contract management and we work closely with the Office of the Commissioner of Immigration Services and provide any poor or illegal advice. Will report if in doubt.

“There has been an increase in the number of law firms providing specialist support and we are working with multiple bodies to make the service even better.”

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Credit: www.independent.co.uk /

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