Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill: Update

The Bill continues its passage through the House of Lords with the Third Reading scheduled for 27 March 2012. Following this reading the Bill will be discussed between the House of Commons and the House of Lords during which both Houses will try to settle some of the disputes.

Focusing on immigration legal aid, the amendments so far include:

to make a provision for legal aid for victims of trafficking for immigration and damages / compensation against traffickers;
to include power for the Government to bring back, or add new, areas of legal aid scope back into the bill;
to provide legal aid for exceptional cases where it is necessary to prevent specific injustice;
to retain legal aid for child / vulnerable young people in proceedings including immigration;
to retain legal aid for applications based on Article 2 of the ECHR;

The timetable for settling disputes will be mid-April. After which the Government will ignore everything that the House of Lords tabled and go approve the Bill without any amendments.

More when we have it!

Tier 1 Post Study Work

The Home Secretary announced the most recent Statement of Changes in the Immigration Rules. That Statement confirmed the Tier 1 Post-Study Work route will close on 06 April 2012. Any applications received by the UK Border Agency before that date will remain valid and will be considered under the Post-Study Work rules.

The Government justified this change by pointing to the difficulties UK national graduates are having when trying to access the labour market, and that any available vacancies should be priorities for them. Perhaps feeling a little guilty about these changes, the Government also introduced a new Tier 1 route for graduate entrepreneurs, commencing on 06 April 2012, and new provisions for graduates who have an offer for a skilled job to switch into Tier 2, also commencing on 06 April 2012.

If you are unsure how these changes will affect you please do not hesitate to contact us.

Biometric Cards for Asylum Claims

Those granted leave as a result of a successful asylum claim will start receiving Biometric Residence Cards. Currently such cards are issued for European nationals, and those on work or student permits.

The biometric data will be taken as early as possible during the asylum claim. The idea is that these details will be taken while the applicant’s claim is under consideration to ensure that, as far as possible, when a decision is made on a case, the UKBA is able to serve the BRP with the other grant documentation.

The requirement to enrol for the biometric will be explained at the asylum interview and the applicant will be given a letter explaining how to have the biometrics taken at a Front Office Service, usually a Post Office.

This requirement is also being rolled out for anyone now applying for a Refugee Travel Document. There is a fee, in addition to the travel document fee, when applying for the BRP at this stage.

Poland's Forward Thinking: Documenting the Undocumented

The Polish government are documenting undocumented migrants. This policy applies to undocumented immigrants who have uninterruptedly resided in Poland since at least 20 December 2007 and to asylum seekers who were denied refugee status before 1 January 2010.

The documents provide for 2 years residence including a right to work. Legalising the immigrants' stay will benefit the Polish economy by turning them into taxpayers, said a pragmatic and realistic Rafal Rogala, Head of the Immigration Office in the Ministry of Interior.

A very realistic and, in the current economic climate, beneficial approach to all. It's a shame other countries do not follow this approach.

Greece: New Asylum Services

The Greek government has established three new asylum services - the Initial Reception Service, the Asylum Service and the Appeals Authority.

Their new Initial Reception Services is established to provide services to third country nationals who are arrested due to illegal entry or stay in Greece, under conditions that guarantee human dignity and their rights. The services includes identification, registration, medical screening and support, advice on their rights and entitlements, and the referral of vulnerable persons.

The Asylum Service will receive asylum seekers and decide their cases. The Appeals Authority aim to overcome the shortcomings of the past which has resulted in criticisms from both the domestic and the international community.

More when we have it.

Forced Returns of Tamils to Sri Lanka

The Human Rights Watch has asked the UK government to halt deportations of Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka. The UK Border Agency's Operational Guidance Note fails to make reference to the return of Tamils despite accepting torture is widespread. Those individuals forcibly removed on passenger flights are not met by British Embassy staff and their situation thereafter is not monitored.

The Human Rights Watch documented eight recent cases of arrest, severe torture, rape and interrogation upon return, supported by medical evidence. Following this report Freedom of Torture also called on the UK government to stop all forcible removals of Tamils to Sri Lanka.

A copy of the Human Rights Watch report can be found
here.