Thursday 14th July 2011
NO SANCTUARY WITHOUT REPRESENTATION
On Friday afternoon, 15th July at 1500h, to coincide with MP Stephen Williams' surgery, members of local refugee organisations will gather at the Council House, College Green, to demand access to asylum advice in the city.
Former IAS staff are determined to re-open as an independent organisation, and are prepared to fund the set-up costs themselves.
Supporters will present letters and petitions that urge the MP and City Council to backthese expert representatives in their bid to take on the IAS contract. Local politicans are encouraged to press the Legal Services Commission to support this move.
The sudden closure of the Immigration Advisory Service, (IAS) the UK’s largest charity providing representation and advice will leave hundreds of people without access to legal advice they need in Bristol. People legitimately trying to pursue their asylum claims are anxious about what will happen next. They include victims of torture, persecution, inhuman treatment, domestic violence and forced marriage.
The situation in the city was already difficult. A member of the Bristol Refugee Rights Welcome Centre said today: “I’ve been looking for a solicitor for 7 months, finally I found someone at IAS two weeks ago and I can’t believe they’ve gone.”
Bristol Refugee Rights (BRR) manager Caroline Beatty, who works at a local drop in service for asylum seekers and refugees said, "It would be a devastating blow if the service cannot continue. Without representation, the asylum process is reduced to a mockery of justice.” Research shows that asylum claimants have almost no chance of the positive decision they deserve without proper legal representation. She predicts that, “More refusals would means more destitution on the streets of Bristol.”
Alice Cutler, who also works at BRR said, “Just three weeks ago we were here to celebrate Bristol becoming a City of Sanctuary. It is impossible to see how we can truly be a place of safety if the legal advice contract for 70% of asylum cases disappears without warning.”
1. For comments contact Alice Cutler on 0117 908 0844, www.bristolrefugeerights.com
2. Information for clients at www.iasuk.org
3. Anyone who needs immigration advice should contact the Community Legal Advice helpline on 0845 345 4 345.