Cuts to legal aid have decimated access to justice for people subject to immigration control. Without the support of not-for profit organisations like ASIRT, individuals and families like these, some of the most vulnerable in the UK, would be at increased risk of abuse and exploitation:
- ‘Jamal’, a 15 year old Afghan boy, who had spent several months in the Calais jungle prior to his arrival in Birmingham. Despite having been in Birmingham for two months, he was not in school, had no lawyer to help with his asylum claim, and was so badly informed about his legal rights and what was happening to him that, on his first visit to ASIRT, he was unable to tell us his address. He told us that his social worker wad treating him as 16, but again had given no explanation for this, and no information about any process by which this conclusion had been reached. ASIRT took action to ensure that he was regarded by the local authority as his rightful age, that a school placement was identified for him, and that he was provided with appropriate legal representation, and information about his statutory rights.
- ‘Sadia’, the single mother of a 3 year old child. Sadia had entered the UK on a spouse visa, and had then become the victim of domestic violence. At the time of her referral to ASIRT, Sadia and her daughter, who is a British citizen, were living in bed and breakfast accommodation, denied recourse to public funds, and living on a weekly subsistence income of just £70 between them. ASIRT assisted Sadia with the collation of evidence of the abuse she had experienced to help us submit a Destitution Domestic Violence Concession application on her behalf, allowing her recourse to public funds and to respite housing in a specialist domestic violence refuge with round the clock support, and giving her the time, security and space to access the legal aided funded representation she needed to make an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK following the breakdown of her relationship.
- ‘Estelle’, the single mother of 3 children, the eldest of whom has a statement of special educational needs and is a British citizen. At the time of referral to ASIRT, the family was street homeless, the family’s landlord having illegally evicted them from their home on the basis of rent arrears, by changing the locks while the family was out. Estelle had approached the local authority’s social services team for an assessment of need under section 17 of the Children Act, to be refused help and advised, wrongly, by a social worker that no help could be offered to the family other than taking the children into local authority care, separating them from their mother and quite possibly from each other. As a consequence, Estelle spent a cold January night sleeping with her children, the youngest of whom was just 4 months old, in West Bromwich Bus Station. ASIRT advised Estelle on her ‘Zambrano’ right to reside in the UK, took legal action to force the local authority to meet its legal responsibilities to accommodate and support this family, and is in the process of helping Estelle with the submission to the Home Office of an application for leave to remain, potentially affording her recourse to public funds and financial security for her children.