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Delayed payments exposing asylum seekers to risk: RMJ

`Delay up to two years in some cases’

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31st May 2010: Charity Refugee and Migrant Justice has alleged the asylum system was facing chaos and cash crisis due to delays in the release of legal aid. In some cases, the delay was up to two years.

The organisation, the UK’s largest provider of free legal advice to asylum seekers, said a substantial proportion of legal aid was paid upon case completion.

The charity, representing people fleeing persecution from countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Zimbabwe, added the delays in payment up to two years was exposing to risk victims of trafficking and 900 unaccompanied children. The charity added it took on 11,000 new clients last year

Chief executive Caroline Slocock said RMJ was not asking for new money, it was simply seeking prompt payment of legal aid for the work it has carried out.

Slocock said charities like theirs were important to Prime Minister David Cameron’s Big Society and could not wait for up to two years for payment, as the Home Office processed the cases.

Slocock said the current legal aid payment system on asylum and immigration was even putting justice at risk, adding they hoped the government would reconsider and agree to take a genuinely fundamental look at legal aid in this area.

Responding to the assertions, a Ministry of Justice spokesman said in the last few years RMJ received substantial support from the Legal Services Commission. This has been in the form of transitional arrangements which have been intended to assist the organisation to make the change from the earlier grant funding arrangement to contract funding per hour and then to graduated fees.

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