News / 30 June 2020

Act: help stop legal aid cuts for survivors

Victims and survivors of modern slavery could be denied access to justice under proposed changes to the legal aid system, due to be decided on 8 July 2020. Please write to your MP using the template letter below, asking them to oppose these changes.


Background

A new report (pdf) by Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL), a group of around 3,500 aspiring and junior lawyers, examined the state of access to legally aided asylum and immigration advice for victims of trafficking and the impact of proposed new regulations.

It included a survey of the anti-slavery support sector which found:

  • 70.6% of respondents stated that it was either "impossible" (2.9%), "extremely difficult" (20.6%) or "difficult" (47.1%) to find legal aid representation for victims of trafficking.
  • 44.1% of respondents stated that victims of trafficking had left their service before they were able to find them an immigration representative.
  • Victims of trafficking are incurring debt and returning to exploitation in order to pay for a private immigration representation due to legal aid providers being unavailable.
  • Lack of access to asylum and immigration legal aid lawyers puts victims of trafficking at risk of exploitation from unregulated asylum and immigration providers.

Proposed changes to legal aid will further restrict access to justice for victims and survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking.

Act now - write to your MP

Please urge your MP to oppose the proposed changes to legal aid, by using our template letter. Simply:

1) Find your MP on the Parliament website - simply put in your postcode and you'll see their contact details.

2) Paste the letter, below, into an email addressed to your MP.

3) Add the name of your MP at the top of your email and sign the letter with your full name, address and postcode to show your email is not spam.

4) Send your email.

Here's the template letter, below. Thank you for supporting victims and survivors of human trafficking and modern slavery.


Dear xxx,

I write to you as your constituent to raise serious concerns about access to justice for victims of trafficking. This needs to be addressed before a crucial decision in Parliament on 8 July.

A new report by Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL), A Sector at Breaking Point: Justice Denied for Victims of Trafficking, finds that victims of trafficking are often unable to access legally aided asylum and immigration advice and representation. The report also shows that the Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 will further restrict access to justice for this vulnerable group.

Access to legal aid for asylum and immigration matters is essential for victims of trafficking to recover from their trauma. YLAL’s report is drawn from a survey of the anti-slavery support sector. The report shows that:

● 70.6% of respondents stated that it was either ‘impossible’ (2.9%), ‘extremely difficult’ (20.6%) or ‘difficult’ (47.1%) to find legal aid representation for victims of trafficking.

● 44.1% of respondents stated that victims of trafficking had left their service before they were able to find them an immigration representative.

● Victims of trafficking are incurring debt and being exploited in order to pay for a private immigration representation due to legal aid providers being unavailable.

● Lack of access to asylum and immigration legal aid lawyers puts victims of trafficking at risk of exploitation from unregulated asylum and immigration providers.

The Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 will further restrict access to justice for victims of trafficking as they make complex asylum and immigration cases financially unviable.

Please bring YLAL’s report to the attention of the Legal Aid Minister, Alex Chalk MP. I would be grateful if you could ask him what impact assessments were undertaken about the impact of the regulations on access to legal aid for victims of trafficking. I understand that the regulations were rushed through in response to COVID-19 without a full consultation. Please ask the Minister to withdraw the regulations and pause to properly consult with the sector to address the serious issues identified in YLAL’s report.

I would be grateful if you could add your name to the Opposition’s fatal motion/prayer to block these regulations.

I am grateful for your support on this important issue.

Yours

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
[please include your name and full address]