Minister’s Immigration Comments Run Against The Rule Of Law, Says Law Society

Ministers immigration comments run against the rule of law, says Law Society

The Sikh Times
November 19, 2008

The rule of law must remain the central tenet of Britains immigration system, says the Law Society following claims by Immigration Minister, Phil Woolas that an asylum seeker industry had emerged.

Woolas suggestion that the system is played by migration lawyers and NGOs is today being rebutted by the Law Society in a letter to the minister.

Paul Marsh, President of the Law Society, says:

The issue of immigration is one for the politicians to debate, but central to that debate must be the fact that those seeking asylum can do so in a legal system that operates under the rule of law. The system is tightly controlled and complex and getting asylum is not an easy process by any means.

The vulnerable are entitled to receive high quality legal advice from a skilled professional. Immigration solicitors are committed to ensuring that their clients are provided with quality assured legal advice. The solicitors who undertake this work have a duty as officers of the court to follow due process.

The courts system offers an appeals process, but the minister is suggesting that using the appeals process is undermining the system. There is no reason why anyone should be denied access to justice on the basis that they are from another country and seeking asylum, which is what the minister seems to suggest.

Woolas commented in an interview with The Guardian that one asylum seeker he knew of had gone through six layers of appeal before securing asylum, declaring that they had no right to be in this country.

Paul Marsh adds: When the Appeal Court has determined that an asylum seeker has a right to remain in this country, it is unacceptable for a Government minister to proclaim through the media that they have no such right.

The Law Society points out that while asylum procedures can be improved, the work of solicitors and the many charities working in this field should be praised, and not branded negatively as an industry.

Gulay Mehmet, chair of the Law Societys Immigration Law Committee, says:

Solicitors who represent those seeking asylum are carrying out their professional obligations, which are governed by a strict code of conduct, with a duty to uphold the rule of law, the hallmark of a civilized society. The government makes the laws of this country, and these, along with the UKs international obligations to uphold certain standards and human rights, form the basis of the way we represent clients.

This is not a lucrative area of law. For the minister to imply there is an asylum “industry” demonstrates a lack of understanding of the difficult and demanding nature of practicing in this area of law, which often involves representing vulnerable clients who have been subjected to abuse and ill treatment by oppressive regimes.

If those in the Home Office dealing with asylum applications were given greater resources and training, better decision making at the initial stage of the process would result in fewer appeals. It might be prudent for the minister to contact those working in this area of law to gain a greater understanding of the system.