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Nels Abbey's picture
Nels Abbey
A voice for those in need, is sadly about to fall silent

UNDER PRESSURE: A UK Border Agency officer questions a suspected illegal migrant worker.

WE’VE HEARD a lot about the 200 or so ‘journalists’ who have lost their jobs as a result of the News Of The World returning to the great sewer in the sky.

But there’s likely to be little coverage on 300 other workers who will soon be out of a job, and with no likelihood of a Sunday Sun to save them. What is even worse is that, unlike the gutter rats at the NOTW, these guys provide an absolutely critical service.

The Immigration Advisory Service, an organisation that provides legal aid to migrants and refugees, has announced that it’s gone into administration.

This news comes nearly a year after Refugee and Migrant Justice, another large charitable organisation representing refugees and migrants also closed its doors in the face of financial difficulties. When they went into administration many thousands of clients, including the most vulnerable people imaginable such as children and victims of trafficking, lost their representation.

Together with other organisations, the Immigration Advisory Service was able to take some of these people on. But one has to wonder – where will they find the access to justice we profess to be so proud of in this country now?

The Immigration Advisory Service existed to represent those most needing representation, including refugees seeking asylum in the UK from often unimaginable horrors in their countries of origin. And contrary to what the News Of The World or other tabloids might have us believe, the staff who will be losing their jobs were not raking in taxpayers’ cash in legal aid fees. They were on modest salaries, struggling to survive in an environment where cuts have increasingly meant that vital services are harder and harder to provide.

Whilst legal aid will continue for asylum cases, funding has become increasingly restrictive and under the Government’s proposals, legal aid will no longer be available for most immigration cases.

Other areas will suffer too with access to the family courts, employment redress and welfare benefits appeals all affected by the legal aid cuts.

The sad thing is that refugees and other vulnerable people are right down the bottom of the list of causes you can provoke outrage for. Can you imagine a News Of The World or Sun campaign to ensure asylum seekers have access to justice and a fair hearing of their cases? Um...no. You are more likely to come across a determined crusade in the opposite direction.

It’s very convenient (as well as politically expedient) to dismantle a system of legal protection and hope no one notices. And even if they do, they won’t shout loud enough to stop it. Some may even cheer in celebration.
Sadly, that is what’s happening.

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