Access to high quality, funded legal advice is an essential part of any fair asylum process, without which asylum seekers can be denied the protection they need. It is also one of the most pressing issues currently facing our clients at Suffolk Refugee Support.
Although SRS is not legally qualified to provide immigration/asylum advice, we do help individuals to access good quality immigration legal advice wherever possible and support them through the process of their asylum claim. Unfortunately, such legal advice is becoming increasingly difficult to access, with no Immigration Legal Aid contracts in Suffolk, making this region a ‘legal aid desert’.
Currently, we rely upon legal aid solicitors based outside Suffolk to represent our clients or to visit our office to provide an outreach service. However, with Ipswich continuing to be a dispersal area for asylum seekers, and increasing numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASCs) being moved here under the National Transfer Scheme, this provision is clearly inadequate, meaning our time and resources are spent finding solicitors outside our region and funding travel to appointments. We continue to actively establish good working relationships with legal providers and to support clients financially to visit solicitors further afield, although we receive no funding to do so. We also continue to campaign against the lack of provision locally and its implications for access to justice. We remain grateful in particular to Solomon Solicitors for their outreach service, and to Fisher Jones Greenwood and Suffolk Law Centre for their support.
If you need good quality legal advice, please contact our office or visit the Legal Services Commission website to find a legal advisor in your area. Appointments with immigration advisors are subject to legal aid requirements being met.