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.