The government’s proposal to introduce a residence test for legal aid will deny many migrants the means of enforcing their rights when they face a variety of problems.
A man from Uganda, who is a survivor of torture and has significant mental health problems, is recognised as a refugee in the United Kingdom. While his case was under consideration the Home Office provided him with accommodation in a hostel for asylum seekers. After his case is concluded he is told to leave within 28 days. He doesn’t know anyone in the United Kingdom, has no money (asylum seekers do not have permission to work while their cases are being looked at), and has nowhere to go. He hasn’t been given his refugee residence permit yet, and he is waiting for his benefits claim to be processed. He approaches the local authority and makes a homelessness application, which is rejected because the local authority does not appreciate the extent of his mental health problems. He needs a specialist legal aid lawyer to challenge the local authority’s decision and make sure he does not end up on the streets, which will make his mental health problems worse.
Under the government’s proposals he would have no access to legal aid, because twelve months have not yet passed since the date he claimed asylum.
More examples coming soon.