Under the rubric of austerity legal aid was savagely cut. When it comes to immigration, legal aid is only available for asylum applications. I suspect the government would quite like to cut legal aid for those, but, as freedom from persecution is an absolute right, it would be a breach of your human rights to deny you access to legal support for an asylum claim.
And here’s the rub; whatever the motivation for cutting legal aid, if you cannot hire a solicitor, then you do not have access to the law. There are thousands of people caught in immigration limbo simply because they cannot afford legal representation. When you couple that with the government’s policy of making people destitute to encourage them to return to their countries of origin, you have a recipe for misery. If your asylum claim has been rejected, you are not going to be very keen to go back to the place you came from. After all, you came here for a reason. That reason is very often that life is unbearable at home. Life is made no more bearable by the UK courts deciding that you do not have a well-founded fear of persecution – the courts take a pretty narrow view of what constitutes persecution. To make things even more Kafkaesque, it is not uncommon for the state to have no legal means of deporting you. In the most refined of immigration nightmares, not only can you not be deported, but, in fact, you cannot even leave voluntarily. You might discover that having left your country of origin, there is no legal record of you left behind. You become, in effect, stateless. In either case, you are going to be stuck unless you can find some other route to regularise your status. Part of the horror of the system is that those routes often exist, if only you could afford a lawyer. If only you could lay your hands on a few thousand pounds, everything could be sorted. But how you going to lay your hands on a few thousand pounds when you are not allowed to work?
It is a horrible situation. It is also one that one of our members finds himself in. We only need £1500 to make the application. We have set up a crowdfunding campaign to try to raise the money required:
Please give what you can. The government’s policy is to keep people like our friend outside of society. We want to resist that policy. If we work together, we can place everybody equally before the law and prove that there is space for all. Thank you.