FECL 04 (March 1992):


The British government has abandoned plans to withdraw legal advice from immigrants and asylum seekers, after widespread criticism from the legal profession and advice groups. The decision was announced by Lord Ferrers, Hom Office minister, in the second reading of the Asylum Bill in the House of Lords.

The government had intended that the United Kingdom Immigrants Advisory Service should take over from lawyers the job of advising immigrants, but disputes inside the service have left it in turmoil, and its government grant is to be withdrawn.

Shortly afterwards, the government also "postponed" its asylum bill. This would have forced refugees to "apply forthwith" if they want asylum; would penalise them if they had behaved in any way "calculated to further their asylum claim"; would, if they arrived in large numbers, allow them to be treated as a group, rather than have their cases considered individually; would refuse them asylum if officials thought they could have found a safe place somewhere in their own country; and penalise them for the behaviour of other people "acting on the behalf of the asylum seeker, whether or not with the applicant's express approval". These changes had been condemned as breaches of international law by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

However, the forthcoming election means that it will now be virtually impossible to get the bill through parliament in time. The government, however, remains committed to reintroduce it, if it wins the election.

Jolyon Jenkins


Source: Most British daily newspapers, 14.2.1992