30 April 2014

The new AIDA Report on the United Kingdom, compiled by the ECRE member organisation Asylum Aid, raises concerns about further cuts in legal aid for asylum seekers. These cuts are likely to impair asylum seeker’s ability to appeal negative decisions on their asylum application.

Following the abolition of free legal aid for human rights claims on 1 April 2013, additional cuts have been imposed, such as, the rates paid for representation in immigration and asylum cases in the Upper Tribunal have been reduced; legal aid for civil court cases where the merits are assessed as ‘borderline’ (i.e. between 50% and 60% of chances of success) has been abolished; and legal aid for applications for permission to apply for judicial review has been removed for cases where permission for judicial review is not granted by the court.

Some potential for improvement in the currently inadequate financial support for asylum seekers was noted in the report. In a judgment from 9 April 2014, the High Court held that the freezing of financial support, which has not been reviewed since 2010/2011, was unlawful. This may lead to an increase in financial support which could allow asylum seekers to cover their basic living needs.

In addition, the report shows that the provision of initial advice on the asylum process has changed. Face to face advice on a drop-in basis in advice locations outside the initial accommodation centres will no longer be possible. Instead, from April 2014, initial advice in the asylum process is provided through the organisation Migrant Help operating in the initial accommodation centres and through an online and telephone service. Applications for financial support for asylum seekers are also now made through this system.

Finally, the report highlights that the UK Supreme Court, in the case EM (Eritrea) of 19 February 2014, ruled that asylum seekers appealing against their removal to another Member State under the Dublin Regulation do not need to prove ‘systemic deficiencies’ in the asylum system of the destination State in order to successfully prevent removal due to a real risk of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment.

This report is part of the Asylum Information Database (AIDA), a project of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), in partnership with Forum Refugiés-Cosi, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and the Irish Refugee Council. AIDA focuses on asylum procedures, reception conditions and detention of asylum seekers in EU Member States.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 30 April 2014
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