In response to reports that the Ministry of Justice is planning to slash legal aid for asylum seekers who make appeals against negative decisions, Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said:
“Further slashing legal aid for asylum seekers will result in people wrongly being refused protection here, and returned to countries where their lives will be in danger. This is unacceptable.
“People who have fled human rights abuses and are now seeking safety in our country must have legal representation to ensure they are given a fair hearing, and can be recognised as genuine refugees. As asylum seekers are not allowed to work, they have no choice but to rely on publicly funded legal advice. By restricting legal aid the government is forcing asylum seekers either to pay for this service themselves, or more likely, to go without.
“We are pleased the government is looking to improve the asylum system, but they must use this opportunity to ensure asylum seekers have access to legal advice from the beginning of the asylum process. Not only will this ensure right decisions are made on their claims first time, but as a recent government pilot has shown, this will also save public money by avoiding costly legal challenges further down the line. We understand these are hard times for everyone, but the UK must remember its proud tradition of giving shelter to those escaping conflict and persecution in their own countries, and stop these people suffering further due to public spending cuts.”