UPDATE: Home Office Fresh Claim Policy Change

The Home Office backed down on its change to the policy for making further submissions as set out in our 15 January 2015 post which can be found here. The Home Office confirmed that persons who lodged their initial asylum claims after 05 March 2007 can continue to lodge further submissions at their regional reporting centre until further notice.

The change was forced by Liverpool City Council who are concerned about the impact of additional arrivals, estimated to be an additional 1000 per year, on council services. Click here to read the Liverpool Echo report for further details.

Home Office Fresh Claim Policy Change

From 26 January 2015 the Home Office are changing the process for making further submissions on asylum and human rights cases (i.e. new asylum claims by those who are appeal rights exhausted but who have not left the UK).

Currently, there are two processes for lodging further submissions. The first are for asylum claims lodged prior to 05 March 2007, where further submissions must be made in person in Liverpool. The second are for claims lodged on or after 05 March 2007, where further submissions can be submitted at a reporting centre local to the claimant or during a regular reporting event.

From 26 January 2015 the Home Office will require everyone wishing to submit further submission to do so in Liverpool. An appointment must requested by telephone and appointments should be scheduled within 10 days of the initial telephone contact.

As before, if a person has exceptional circumstances preventing them from travelling to Liverpool, such as a disability or severe illness, they may, with prior approval, be able to make the further submission by post.

The Home Office say the change is to provide a faster, more efficient service, which ensures a firm but fair immigration system.

UKBA Messaging Migrants via Capita

The UKBA contracted a private company called Capita to track down illegal migrants. 

Capita are currently sending out text messages to persons suspected of being in the UK illegally. The messages ask the individuals to leave the UK as soon as possible. A BBC report confirmed Capita are sending messages in error, such errors including asking a British woman, and a man with a valid visa (who has also invested £1M in a UK business) to leave. Capita responded by saying that some information provided by the UKBA, upon which they base their messages, may be inaccurate. 

Not withstanding the fact that the UKBA passed on incorrect data, this action may also be contrary to their duties under the Data Protection Act. Relevant support groups have been in touch with Ofcom and the Information Commission, as well as informing the UKBA that they may be liable to harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act. 

If you receive a text message you should complain to the UKBA via their online form found here.

More when we have it.

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!

Justice Hale on the Legal Aid Cuts

Brenda Hale, Justice of the Supreme Court of the UK, gave a opening speech at the Law Centres Federation Annual Conference 2011 which she used as platform to advise against the upcoming legal aid cuts.

She explained that the adversarial legal system that we have relies on the parties to the proceedings to present and prepare their own case. She highlighted the constitutional principle of access to justice and that legal aid is service which the state owes to its citizens as a matter of principle.

There was also the false economy argument, in that by continuing to provide legal aid allows a little advice to solve an individual’s problem(s) at the earliest opportunity without the need for court intervention. A few letters and a bit of advice can also save the government potentially more money than they are trying to save with the legal aid cuts as it avoids further issues developing. For example, a person with employment issues, if left unresolved, would then have housing and debt issues. By solving the employment issues it prevents those secondary issues developing.

The government accepts that the cuts will have a disproportionate impact upon women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities - therefore they accept that it will hit the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

This is just a brief summary of Justice Hale’s speech. As I have no why given her speech the justice it deserves click here to read it in full.

Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill

The Legal Aid Bill aims to cut funding to legal aid and for some areas, such as immigration cases, remove funding for them completely. The Bill went through the Public Bill Committee on 06 September 2011.

There was no discussions relating to the removal of funding for immigration cases, and it appears that many want to avoid the word 'immigration' completely. That said, there was acceptance that there may be 'advice deserts' where some areas will have no to specialist lawyers. The closure of the RMJ and the IAS were highlighted as examples of that.

The Minister pointed out that immigration tribunals 'are designed to be user-friendly and interpreters are provided free of charge' as a way of countering the restriction to legal aid in such cases. He went on to make a point that legal aid will be retained for 'domestic violence immigration cases, cases before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and immigration detention cases, including advocacy before the tribunal.'

The full debate and written submissions from concerned organisations, individuals and companies can be found here.

Also, if you're interested how a bill for a new law, or a proposal to change an existing law, is presented for debate click here.