PRESS RELEASE: Removal charter flight scheduled for tomorrow amid further access to justice concerns
Detention Action Press Release
Wednesday 19 February 2020
London – for immediate release
Human rights charity Detention Action and the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA) have today raised urgent concerns over access to legal advice in Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) ahead of a charter flight for removals to German, Austria and Switzerland scheduled for tomorrow.
In a letter to the Home Secretary Priti Patel (attached), the organisations state that, in light of structural failings in the system for legal advice in detention centres and the specific concerns of over one of the firms on duty during the removal window, they are not confident that the Government can be satisfied that those scheduled to be removed from the UK tomorrow have had adequate access to justice as required by Home Office policy.
Tomorrow’s scheduled deportation flight comes after a highly controversial charter flight to Jamaica was carried out by the Home Office last week amid serious concerns over access to justice in detention centres which resulted in a Court of Appeal ruling that prevented the majority of the planned deportations.
Today’s letter comes after Detention Action and ILPA learned that one sole law firm with just three solicitors has been on duty in Morton Hall, Harmondsworth and Colnbrook IRCs during the week commencing the 10th February, which includes the crucial period leading up to tomorrow’s planned charter flight. The three detention centres hold hundreds of people in acute need of legal advice between them.
The letter highlights concerns that the unnamed firm lacks both the capacity and capability to provide adequate legal advice in the centres. The specific failings raised include:
• Turning up late or not at all to legal aid surgeries in IRCs
• Asking a detainee for money at a legal aid surgery
• Telling a detainee that they would not represent him because they thought he might be removed soon
• Taking a detainee’s paperwork and not contacting him subsequently
• Failing to complete last minute legal work
The issues raised by Detention Action and ILPA today follow 18 months of monitoring of the Detained Duty Advice Scheme (DDA), the system under which people held under immigration powers are able to access legal advice. The monitoring has already led to grave concerns being formally raised with the Legal Aid Agency in June 2019.
Bella Sankey, Director of Detention Action, said: “The Government is pressing ahead with another charter removal flight tomorrow, this time to a number of European countries to which it seeks to remove asylum seekers and vulnerable victims of trafficking. This is despite widespread concerns that the Government’s system for the provision of legal advice in detention centres is in meltdown, with minimal solicitors available for at least three IRCs last week and grave concerns that several firms are regularly in breach of their contractual obligations providing either no or poor advice to those detained.”
For media enquiries please contact:
Matthew Leidecker, Campaigns Manager
Bella Sankey, Director
Spokespeople are available for broadcast interview.
Notes to editors:
1. Detention Action is a national charity established in 1993 that seeks to defend the rights and improve the welfare of people in immigration detention by combining support for individuals with campaigning for policy change. Detention Action works in Harmondsworth and Colnbrook IRCs near Heathrow Airport in London, Morton Hall IRC in Lincolnshire, and with people held under immigration powers in London prisons. We work with around 1000 individuals held in detention each year.