Asylum seekers who have arrived in the UK on small boats, research shows, often receive no access to legal advice until days before they are to be deported from the country.
Although Priti Patel, home secretary, hase beenb critical of ‘last minute claims’ which ‘frustrate’ removals, a recent report by an immigration rights group reveals that in a lot of cases the Channel migrants only have the opportunity to speak to a lawyer in the days before deportation.
Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire was repurposed from being used as a removal centre for mostly female immigration detainees to operating as a short-term holding facility for people who had arrived in British shores after crossing the Channel in small boats.
The report, which gives the first public insight into the new regime, was based on four weeks of interview with 20 asylum seekers who were detained in the centre during September, and finds that people are denied legal advice at any early stage anc victims of trafficking are not identified.
More than half of the interviewees said they had been victims of torture or trafficking, often having been enslaved in Libya and subject to brutal torture, forced labour and rape.
The report by immigration rights group Movement for Justice, found that migrants had spent five to seven days in Yarl’s Wood. During this time they were not given any access to a solicitor, largely because the Detention Duty Advice Scheme, which facilitates free legal advice surgeries in removal centres in England, was not functioning. Some were given a list of numbers for solicitors after several days in the centre, but a lack of phone credit an language difficulties made it impossible for them to secure representation, according to research.
A Home Office spokesperson said that th residents of Yarl Wood were provided with £5 in phone credit on arrival, and an additonal £5 credit which could be spent on phone calls or in the centre shop.
The report also went on to confirm that people were then moved to asylum accommodation with no representation, no support and in many cases no phones, often in areas where the charities are overstretched and where legal aid immigration solicitors either have limited or not capacity.
After living in this accommodation for several weeks or months asylum seekers who have arrived via the Channel are often taken to Brook House removal centre, where they are served a removal notice, which usually only gives them a matter of days before their scheduled flight.
This means that for the victims of trafficking and torture, people with families in Britain and people with a serious physical and mental health conditions, all of whom have a valid legal argument to remain in Britain – a ‘last minute claim’ is very often the only way to stop what would be an unlawful removal, according to Movement for Justice’s findings.
This all comes after a string of cases where the Home Office has attempted to deport asylum seekers back to European countries under the Dublin 111 regulation, but they have been prevented from doing so because immigration lawyers have intervened and idintified that their deportation would be unlawful and place the individual at risk.
The department has said it plans to deport 1,000 asylum seekers to various EU countries under the Dublin laws – which allows a state to, in certain cases, send asylum seekers back to a ‘safe’ country that they have already travelled through – before the UK leaves the EU at the end of the year.
A High Court Judge last month ordered the Home Office to cancel an entire flight to Spain on the grounds that it would place asylum seekers on board at risk of destitution or street homelessness. In other cases, lawyers have challenged people’s removal on the basis that they are victims of trafficking or torture under protections available top them in law.
The home secretary repeatedly refers to these immigration solicitors as ‘activist lawyers’