`Most vulnerable’, facing deportation, may go unrepresented with IAS’s closure

Representing individuals, families seeking political refuge, IAS closes its doors

12th July 2011: For thousands of asylum seekers in Greater Manchester, the news is not good. They may soon find themselves groping in the dark with a legal advice charity going into administration.
Representing individuals and families seeking political refuge, the Immigration Advisory Service (IAS) has closed its doors. With this it is clear that many of the most vulnerable, facing deportation, may now be unrepresented.

The charity, with branches in Salford and Wigan, says it was compelled to close down its services because of government changes to legal aid.

The decision comes as a setback also to approximately 50 people employed by it in the north west. They were working on around 5,000 cases.

In all, the charity has 14 branches across the UK, employing 300 people, for providing free legal advice to immigrants and asylum cases in the UK.

A spokesman for the charity, Julian Bild, said: "We have told the administrators will try to find other agencies to take over the cases. But the reality is that the whole sector is overloaded and many of our most vulnerable clients facing deportation will now be unrepresented.

"The majority of our offices are now closed. But we understand the administrators want to keep open a few key offices to tidy up files and manage the transition."

The administrators were called in the previous week and the process of transferring case loads on to other agencies is on.

The charity, in a statement, made it clear it had been unable to continue after legal aid fees for asylum seekers were cut by 10 per cent.

The Legal Services Commission, running the legal aid scheme, on the other hand, refuted the claims that the reforms were to be blamed for the charity’s closure. The commission insisted it was charity bosses who had decided to close.

A spokesman said: "Our priority now is to work closely with IAS and the administrators to ensure clients of IAS continue to get the help they need, whilst safeguarding public money.

"We are now identifying alternative advice provision in the areas affected and arrangements for case transfer will follow as soon as possible."

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