Friday 23 August 2013

Legal Limbo: Are Foreign Nationals Being Denied Legal Advice ?


There is growing concern among specialist immigration lawyers about the number of people arrested and detained for immigration offences in London police stations are not being provided access to appropriate legal advice from qualified immigration practitioners.

Current arrangements are that those currently arrested and detained at police stations are not being informed of their rights to specialist legal immigration legal representation.

Both Individuals arrested on suspicion of committing crime who may have immigration issues and immigration detainees are usually afforded access to criminal rather than immigration legal representation.  This results in foreign nationals are being left to deal with United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) immigration officers without the benefit of specialist legal advice. This results in

Virgo Consultancy Services Ltd a new immigration firm based in South London has discovered through an Freedom of Information Act to the Metropolitan Police Service that the majority are foreign nationals detained in London in from the 1st June 2012 – 31st May 2013 were not provided access to immigration legal advice as is their rights under Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 section 38.2

5834 individuals were arrested for immigration offences during this period.  The number recorded as having a solicitor is 1900 that leaves 3484 people who were denied legal advice to which they are entitled in law.

Both the Police Custody Sergeants and Immigration Officers are under a duty to advise detainees of their rights to be access legal advice. However there is no list of qualified Immigration lawyers available to custody sergeants in both London and the rest of the country.  UKBA officers are also refusing to provide access to immigration lawyers.

Immigration Supervisor Hillary Brown at Virgo Consultancy Services stated

 “The information we secured through our FOI request confirms our fears that the majority of people arrested and detained in police stations, who are foreign nationals are not being provided with access to appropriate legal advice.  This is leading to individuals being unnecessarily detained for long periods of time, separated from their families and being denied their basic human rights. At worst these individuals could be wrongfully removed from the UK at best these case unnecessarily clog up the already overburdened tribunal service at great to the tax payer.”

In the light of this information we have written to the Legal Aid Agency asking that they provide a similar service to that provided to criminal defence lawyers for immigration detainees. This would ensure that foreign nationals are not receiving a second rate, sub-standard service solely due to their nationality.

British Police services should be proactive in ensuring that all custody suites in the UK are provided with a list of qualified immigration lawyers in their area.

The figures also demonstrate the huge level of disproportionate number of Asian and Black people being arrested.

Virgo Consultancy based in Brixton is seeking to organise a meeting of London immigration lawyers to look at these and other immigration issues in the near future. 

Twitter @VirgoCSLtd

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