Asylum seekers in Scotland could be denied justice

Asylum seekers in Scotland could be denied justice as
vital legal charity closes

Scottish Refugee Council expresses deep shock and concern over the news that a crucial charity, Refugee Migrant Justice, has gone into administration.

Refugee Migrant Justice (RMJ) is a life-saving charity that has been providing legal representation for people seeking asylum, through legal aid. They announced yesterday [Tuesday, 15 June] that they would be going into administration.

This situation has been created by cashflow problems due to late payment of legal aid by the England and Wales Legal Services Commission in some cases by up to two years.

Their absence will leave the legal representation of thousands of people seeking asylum in England and Wales at risk.

In Scotland, the legal system differs. While those pursuing their asylum cases here will not be affected they could face difficulties if they are transferred to removal centres in England, and are required to change their legal representation.

John Wilkes, Chief Executive of Scottish Refugee Council said: ‘We are truly shocked to hear this news. Many asylum seekers in Scotland are moved to detention centres in England where they must continue defending their claim under the English legal system. Without access to legal representation – which RMJ play a large part in providing – the likelihood is many of them won’t get access to justice.

‘The coalition government has pledged to speed up the asylum system. But the RMJ’s announcement increases our ongoing concerns that a faster system means an unfair system. Those fleeing persecution, war and the threat of death need access to the law to prove their case for protection. Without that access we risk seeing people being forced to return to situations of grave danger without a proper hearing.’

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For more information contact media officers Clare Harris or Karin Goodwin on 0141 223 7927/ 07734 030 763 or media@scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

The Trustees of Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ) signed papers to place the charity into administration on June 15 as a result of a cash flow problem created by late payment of legal aid by the Legal Services Commission.  The administrators, BDO, will then assume responsible for managing the business.

The legal representation of more than 10,000 vulnerable asylum seekers and victims of trafficking, including nearly 900 separated children, is now at risk. RMJ also represents over 10 per cent of the detention population and many foreign national prisoners.  

See www.refugee-migrant-justice.org.uk

Scottish Refugee Council is an independent charity dedicated to providing advice, information and assistance to asylum seekers and refugees living in Scotland. We also provide specialist services in areas such as housing and welfare, women's issues, community development, the media and the arts.

Scottish Refugee Council does not provide legal assistance or advice to those seeking asylum, but directs clients to a list of approved legal practitioners practicing asylum law.

For more information go to www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk