New plan for immigration – Law Society response
The government announced its proposals for a new plan for immigration in March 2021.
Key proposals included:
- the government will establish a 'good faith' requirement for legal representatives
- the government will establish a fast-track appeals process and streamlined appeals system, tackling ‘meritless’ claims and appeals; all claims must be made ‘up front’, although it was not made clear how this would function – this ‘one-stop process’ is intended to speed up removals; more information can be found in the full statement
- refugees who come to the UK’s official resettlement programme will get indefinite leave to remain once they arrive
- those who arrive illegally and successfully claim asylum will receive a new ‘temporary protection status’ rather than the right to settle; they will also have limited family reunion rights and reduced access to benefits
- members of the Windrush generation will find it easier to achieve citizenship as the British Nationality Act will be amended
- maximum life sentences will be introduced for people smugglers
We responded to the government’s new plan for immigration in May 2021. In summary, we believe that the proposed changes to the asylum system would undermine access to justice and the rule of law.
Our views are outlined in more detail in our full response to the consultation, and summarised below.
The nature of the consultation
While we welcome the opportunity to respond to the proposals put forward in the plan, we expressed many concerns about the format of the consultation and the high-level nature of the proposals.
The proposals are not supported by evidence or detail – the plan does not provide any rationale or information on how the proposals could realistically operate in practice.
Any changes should be well-evidenced, coherent, and take a trauma-informed approach, reflecting the experiences of people seeking asylum in the UK.
The introduction of a ‘good faith’ requirement for legal representatives
The suggestion of 'good faith' requirements for lawyers working in asylum would undermine trust in the justice system, as solicitors are already bound by the highest ethical and professional standards.
We strongly oppose any implication that our members do not practice in good faith already, a claim which is damaging not only to the profession but to the vulnerable clients it might deter from seeking advice.
Establishing a two-tier system of protection
The proposal to categorise asylum seekers by how they arrive in UK and assign them support and protections based on this categorisation would have severe impacts on the rule of law, as well as access to justice.
Such measures would create two tiers of asylum seekers existing alongside one another; one with access to support and the other living outside ‘the system’. In our view, this proposal risks a breach of article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Changes to process
The proposed procedural changes are not explained in sufficient detail for use to be able to provide an informed view.
A so-called ‘one-stop process’ would be impracticable, unrealistic, and a barrier to accessing justice for many people; it does not account for the fact that many claimants will have suffered great trauma, nor that evidence often comes to light at later stages in the process.
Moreover, there is no evidence that such measures are necessary; the plan includes no qualitative or quantitate intelligence that shows ‘abuse’ of the current system.
We’ll continue to monitor the situation and engage with the Home Office on the proposals ahead of any legislative changes.