Written by: Danai Papachristopoulou, Immigration Department Manager
May 2022 marked two years of RMC representing immigration and asylum cases before the First-tier and Upper Tribunal. After years of being regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) providing immigration advice and representation at Levels 1&2, in April 2020 we took the decision to raise our level of authorisation, which enabled us to expand our services and support vulnerable clients in legally complex appeals before the Tribunals.
The legal aid gap
After the dramatic cuts on legal aid in 2012 with the introduction of The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 most immigration matters were removed from the scope of legal aid, leaving destitute or even low-income applicants unable to pursue complex cases before the Courts as the legal fees are unaffordable to many. Over the years, a number of reports by various organisations from Amnesty International to Refugee Action, as well as the Joint Committee on Human Rights of the Parliament, have documented and highlighted the negative impact these cuts have had on individuals and their ability to protect their human rights.
The majority of our immigration work at RMC, namely human rights claims and applications under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), is not in-scope for legal aid. With the application fees costing more than £2,500 per person for leave to remain (from inside the UK) and almost £3,500 per person for leave to enter (from outside the UK), having to also pay for legal representation is impossible for many applicants. Language or lack of IT skills are further barriers preventing them from submitting applications on their own.
The detrimental effect of the absence of legal aid for these applications is exacerbated at the appeal stage where professional legal advice and representation is often essential for a successful outcome and usually comes with a hefty fee.
Representing cases before the First-tier and Upper Tribunal
With only four caseworkers working on appeals and representing cases in court and with no dedicated funding for this type of work, RMC has assisted 60 clients with their appeals and has completed 32 appeals before the First-tier Tribunal. 21 of them have resulted in the appellants being granted leave to enter or remain in the UK.
Today, we release our report ‘Two years of litigation: Representation of clients before the Asylum and Immigration Chamber’ providing an overview of our work and impact these past two years and the real-life stories behind our casework.
Committed to assisting refugees and migrants through crisis and disadvantage, we will continue and develop further our legal work to allow us to provide quality advice and representation to even more people in need