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IALP launches research project
Fiona Bawdon, a freelance legal affairs journalist and LAG’s Immigration and Asylum Law (IAL) Project’s research and communications director, writes:
This month sees the entire publicly-funded sector take a leap into the unknown, with the removal of legal aid for vast swathes of work. Leading barristers’ chambers and law firms alike have been equally critical of the cuts themselves, but also at the lack of advance information about how the changes will work in practice.
Effect of legal aid cuts
Already, the likes of Shelter and Citizens Advice Bureaux are closing facilities or laying off staff, with the housing charity planning to close around one-third of its advice centres. The British Red Cross is planning to concentrate its not inconsiderable firepower on a campaign to restore funding for family reunion cases, warning that the cuts will cause considerable heartache and injustice for many people, who will be unable to be reunited with their children (see also page 6 of this issue). Legal Action Group’s Immigration Asylum Law Project – launched last year with funding from Unbound Philanthropy – is aiming to highlight the plight of people who have lived in the UK for many years but have irregular immigration status, often through no fault of their own.
‘Chasing status’
IALP is launching a research project, ‘Chasing Status’, which will conduct interviews with a variety of people in this situation. This would range from elderly people from former Commonwealth countries, who still have irregular status despite living and working in the UK for 40 years or more, to young care-leavers, whose local authorities have failed to resolve their immigration status. The aim of the research will be not only to illustrate the importance of legal aid in resolving immigration problems, but also to show the human stories and the impact of the practical and other difficulties lack of status can bring.
Legal aid removal and immigration cases
Roopa Tanna, an immigration solicitor at Islington Law Centre®, says that young clients often have no idea that they are not officially British, and the revelation can cause great upset when they find out. She tells of one young man who only discovered that he did not have a passport when he was at university and wanted to go travelling with his fellow students. He found the notion of having to ‘prove’ his Britishness – something he had always taken for granted – deeply distressing, she says. His passport application was turned down repeatedly on technical grounds, before Roopa Tanna was able to intervene to help resolve the problem. With the removal of legal aid for immigration work (although it remains for asylum), the fear is that those with status issues will not be able to access the help they need.
Interviews for research project
The interviews will be conducted anonymously and will form the basis of a report to be published by LAG later this year.
■ For more information about LAG’s Immigration and Asylum Law Project, or if you have an immigration client who would be suitable to be interviewed, please contact: fbawdon@lag.org.uk.

About the author(s)

Description: Fiona Bawdon - author
Fiona Bawdon is a freelance legal affairs journalist and founder and co-organiser of the LALY awards.