Quality of legal advice for asylum seekers

Attn: News Desks
Embargoed: 0000 January 19 2007


MEDIA RELEASE
QUALITY OF LEGAL ADVICE FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS


Good quality legal advice for asylum seekers, provided by properly trained and
regulated practitioners, is essential if fair and just decisions are to be made under
the New Asylum Model, Scottish Refugee Council will say at their AGM on
Friday.
The New Asylum Model, the procedure introduced by the UK Government last
year for processing asylum claims, hopes to improve the quality and speed of
initial decisions being made on asylum claims, and consequently reduce the
number of appeals and make the overall asylum process faster.
Under this new system, it is intended that initial decisions on asylum seekers’
claims will be made within one month, as opposed to two months under the old
regime. By April 2007, when all new cases will be processed under the new
model, it is planned that 35 per cent of claims will be concluded within six
months, with 60 per cent by December 2008.
Sally Daghlian, Chief Executive, Scottish Refugee Council, said:
“Getting the decision right first time is something Scottish Refugee Council has
been calling for, so we welcome the New Asylum Model’s focus on improving the
quality of initial decisions. However, the new procedure depends for its success
on the number and availability of well-trained legal advisers.
“Few other areas of law have been subject to the same level of legislation as
immigration and asylum, and there is another bill in the pipeline. So much
change is challenging, therefore it is vitally important that the legal advisers
receive appropriate, up-to-date training, or the new system risks falling at the first
hurdle.”
Désiré Ruragaragaza, Scottish Refugee Council Board Member and originally
an advocate from Burundi, said:
“The reality of accessing quality legal advice during the asylum process can be
difficult and daunting for asylum seekers. Bad advice and representation can
mean the difference between the prospect of a new and safe life and being
returned to persecution. Proper legal advice is the crux of a fair and just asylum
system.”
Suzanne McCarthy, Immigration Services Commissioner, Office of the
Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), said:
"It is extremely important that people seek out an authorised immigration adviser
who is properly regulated and will be up to date with the law. Far too often we
come across cases where illegal advisers promise asylum seekers swift
resolutions to their cases, but instead disappear with the client's money and
documents, which can have a serious effect on their claim.”
End


Notes to Editors:

Scottish Refugee Council AGM & Public Meeting will take place at Council Chamber, Edinburgh City Chambers, High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1YJ on Friday January 19, 2-4pm.

Also speaking will be Nuala Mole, Director, Advice on Individual Rights in Europe (AIRE), talking about her experience of taking cases to the
European Court of Human Rights.

The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) is an
independent public body set up under the Immigration and Asylum Act
1999 (Part v) to ensure that immigration advisers are fit and competent
and act in the best interests of their clients. www.oisc.gov.uk

The New Asylum Model aims to improve the quality of initial decisions
being made on new asylum claims. According to Home Office figures, in
the period July - Sept 2006, 9% of asylum claims were granted at the
initial decision stage, with 20% allowed on appeal. For more information
see http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/aboutus/newsarchive/nam

To attend the AGM or to arrange interviews with the speakers, please
contact Aideen McLaughlin on 0141 223 7927/07734 030 763.