In our previous blog we looked at decisions in asylum cases. In this blog, we will take you on a quick scope about Asylum appeals.
Running Appeals at JRS
When the JRS Legal Project was set up, we did not anticipate running appeals ourselves. We were focused on further submissions and expected to have to refer refusals to legal aid representatives for judicial review. However, those cases which have been refused have all had rights of appeal and it has been hard to find legal aid representatives to take these cases on. Consequently, we have had to lodge and run some of the appeals ourselves.
This can be problematic from the start as, without a legal aid contract, we need to show extra evidence that our refugee friends are eligible for fee waivers and, more crucially, we do not have budgets to routinely pay for expert or medical reports that the tribunal often requires even when the facts are clear. But where there is no alternative, we need to do the best for our refugee friends.
Legal Aid representatives
When people have legal aid representatives the representatives should lodge the appeal and provide representation unless they think there is not a big enough chance of success. If they don’t think there is a chance of success they need to explain why in writing, quickly. Too often people are abandoned by lawyers at the last moment or very late with no explanation. The legal aid funding system does not help ensure representation is provided where needed or promote good quality work and client care. We have worked with some legal aid representatives to assist them in maximising their capacity and we want to develop these relationships further.
Covid and Appeals
In the wake of Covid, the courts are defaulting to online hearings. There are clearly some advantages in this for legal representatives – less time wasted sitting around at court for hours only to get adjourned and the same for witnesses and appellants. However, the hearings can be an alienating experience and however much a judge tries to humanise the process, and some genuinely do try, the technology gets in the way. The online process should provide for reviews of the evidence so that decisions are checked, and cases are ready to go. This morning we logged on to present our first full hearing, online. In the event the judge today decided that the Home Office should respond to part of the case they had ignored, so the Home Office took the case back to reconsider. Frustrating for the appellant, for their witnesses and for us, but it might have been worse if we had all actually gone to court in person.
In conclusion, over the past three years we have seen that the gap in provision for legally aided representation is not simply for fresh claims or applications outside the normal scope of legal aid but also for appeals. Failing to address this means further misery for our refugee friends. We can’t fill that gap, but we aim to do what we can.
The JRS UK Legal Project has been running since January 2019 and provides specialist legal advice, representation, support and training to destitute refugees.
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