The impact of legal aid changes on migrants and refugees

The ‘residence test’: what it means for refugees and migrants

The government’s plans to introduce a ‘residence test’  (please see our flyer which you can download on the right for an explanation) will mean that many migrants and refugees will be denied legal aid. As a result:

  • people may be sent back to countries where they face a risk of persecution;
  • people may be detained in immigration detention centres indefinitely – in many cases for months or years – without having legal aid to help them apply to be released;
  • people who have been trafficked to the UK to be exploited will not be able to have legal aid to help them enforce their rights;
  • people may not be able to challenge the Home Office delay in dealing with the case, even though they have been waiting years and years for a decision.

Reactions to the ‘residence test’

Leading lawyers have said that they believe the residence test would be unlawful, because it “denies practical and effective access to justice to what are essentially a group of ‘foreigners’”, even though their case has merit and they cannot afford to pay for a lawyer privately. The residence test has also been attacked as being unworkable, because people will have to prove that they have been in the UK lawfully for at least 12 months, which many will not be able to do because they don’t have the right paperwork, and because what counts as ‘lawful residence’ is something very complex.

Leafleting at Refugee Week 

Today we handed out some 400 flyers on the Southbank in London, at the launch of Refugee Week. This is an annual event which takes place across the UK aimed at celebrating the contribution that refugees make to the UK and promoting a better understanding of why people seek asylum. The people we spoke to were generally very interested in the campaign and we hope they will go home and sign the e petition. Refugee Week runs until 23rd June with a full programme of arts, cultural and educational events. We have sent our special ‘Refugee Week’ flyer to event organisers across the country, but would encourage anyone going to an event to download some and take them with you!

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