Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Immigration Advisory Service- 'gone into administration'

From Bristol Indymedia:


The Immigration Advisory Service, the UK’s largest charity providing representation and advice in immigration and asylum law, has gone into administration leaving hundreds of people without access to the legal representation -that they are entitled to.

The closure is a shock to clients and staff alike, offices have closed without warning, leaving much urgent and time specific work hanging. Staff in Bristol were informed by cleaners in their building late last Friday that bailiffs had been in to seize assets. There are an estimated 650 active cases affected in Bristol alone, including asylum, human rights, domestic violence, with thousands more accross the country.

People who are legitimately trying to pursue their claim for asylum will be left anxious and unsure what will happen next. Bristol Refugee Rights manager Caroline Beatty, who works at a local drop in service for asylum seekers and refugees said, "It would be a devastating blow if the service cannot continue.”

Local caseworkers are determined to try and re-open somehow but currently have no access to files and the offices are closed. The Bristol office represents about 70% of the case load of the three legal aid asylum advice providers in the area with the Law Centre and South West Law.

The LSC, Legal Services Commission said in a statement today they were, “Identifying alternative advice provision in the areas affected and arrangements for case transfer will follow as soon as possible.” But even if the contract currently held by IAS is made available to another provider, there will be a gap in service with disastrous impact on clients and their cases, and the loss of expertise held by the current staff at IAS would be immeasurable.

If however, this enormously important resource is not replaced at all, it would turn the already extremely difficult UK asylum process, into a “fiasco”.

Caroline Beatty explained, “Without representation claimants have almost no chance of the positive decision they can hope for when the case is properly constructed, and which they so desperately need."

Letters of support of service to MPs have been requested by local staff. Please write to your MP TODAY and support IAS caseworkers attempts to stay open in Bristol.

More info on campaign actions will be posted as soon as it is available.

Anyone who needs immigration advice should contact the Community Legal Advice helpline on 0845 345 4 345.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Proud and Disappointed of the UK

By Peter Richardson, Director of LASSN

Over the past 12 years more than 1,100 journalists and media staff have been killed in the line of duty. None of them in the UK. We can be proud of our country, the freedom of our press and our record on human rights. But I'm also disappointed.

Last night's Refugee Week event in Leeds included talks from two prominent journalists from West Africa (see also). We heard accounts of personal imprisonment and beatings, and saw disturbing pictures of violence.

Charles Atangana was detained in Cameroon for 40 days. In this first period of detention he was beaten and tortured. He was later detained for a further 52 days - this time in the UK. He wasn't beaten or tortured in the UK but how can it be right for us to lock him up simply for seeking sanctuary here.

James Fallah has been in the UK for 12 years. For 9 years he was an active member of society with full legal rights. He studied, he worked and he paid tax and national insurance. Suddenly last year his permission to work was revoked, his asylum claim refused and James now faces an uncertain future.

The evening finished with a song from Women Asylum Seekers Together. A refused asylum seeker sang to us, telling us "How beautiful you are" and telling us "your handouts are a hope to our needs." I know she has been destitute in the UK, with not a single penny of support. She only survived because of the local church providing food and a place to sleep.

We can rightly be proud of the UK. In our country it is safe to express discontent and safe to challenge the government. A recent survey showed that we are proud to be British. It also showed that almost all of us (82%) believe that protecting the most vulnerable is a core British value.

We should be proud but I can't help feeling disappointed at how we treat some of the most vulnerable people who seek sanctuary here.