Asylum: the persecution continues

Submitted by Anon on 25 November, 2003 - 5:47

By Dale Street

David Blunkett is a worried man. He is worried that "community relations" might be "adversely affected by what may be seen in many quarters as continuing evasion and exploitation of immigration and asylum controls at significant cost to the taxpayer".
David Blunkett could protect "community relations" by exposing the myths and lies on which misperceptions about immigration controls and asylum-seekers are based.

Alternatively, he could pander to the "many quarters" who believe what they read in the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express.

Needless to say, he has chosen the latter course of action. Although the last piece of anti-asylum legislation (the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002) has only just fully come into effect, yet another Bill about asylum is to be rushed through the next session of Parliament.

Travelling through a "safe" third country without applying for asylum, arriving in the UK without documentation, and lodging a late application for asylum will all become factors which - by law - will count as reasons to "justify" refusing a claim for asylum.

This is a novel approach to assessing asylum claims. In any other country in the world asylum claims are measured against the simple criterion of whether or not it is safe for the asylum-seeker to return to their country of nationality.

In New Labour Britain, however, a failure to conform to the government's Weberian "ideal-type" asylum-seeker (travels using own documentation, applies for asylum in first safe country reached, and does so immediately on arrival) will become a reason to reject an asylum claim.

Dismissing the current appeals system for asylum-seekers as "too long and complicated" - despite the serial attacks on the system contained in previous Labour and Tory legislation - Blunkett now proposes a further reduction in appeal rights for rejected asylum-seekers.

The current two-tier system of appeals (first to an immigration judge, and then to a panel of three judges) is to be replaced by a single tier. Blunkett is also "looking at ways to restrict access to the higher courts".

Two new criminal offences will be created. Arriving in the UK without documentation and without "a reasonable explanation", and a failure by rejected asylum-seekers to co-operate with re-documentation will become criminal offences.

All forms of support for families whose asylum claims have been rejected but who fail to leave the UK are to be scrapped. This is in order to "provide an additional incentive to leave the UK promptly".

In a truly New Labour stroke of genius Blunkett is planning to "cap" Legal Help (formerly Legal Aid) for asylum-seekers, by limiting the number of hours for which Legal Help will be paid for legal advice and representation to asylum-seekers.

But many solicitors already lose money on providing legal representation to asylum-seekers, subsidising their losses by income from other areas of work. In response to the proposed "capping" of Legal Help, 47% of solicitors who currently do asylum work have stated that they will cease to do so.

This will leave the field open for bent solicitors - the ones who actually do milk the system, while failing to provide asylum-seekers with inadequate (or, very often, any) legal representation.

The impact of the "capping" of Legal Help will be the legal equivalent of Gresham's Law. Just as "bad money drives out good money", so too the "capping" of Legal Help will lead to bad solicitors driving out good solicitors - at significant cost to Blunkett's beloved taxpayer.

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