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Immigration Advisory Service in Administration

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Immigration Advisory Service ("IAS”) in Administration

 

http://www.iasuk.org/, 11 July 2011

The Immigration Advisory Service (IAS), the largest provider of publically funded immigration and asylum legal advice, advised on 11 July 2011 that it had been placed into administration. The IAS, a registered charity, has been in existence for 35 years, and employs 300 staff at 14 locations across England and Scotland. It is renowned for a large number of important legal precedent cases which have been taken through the Courts, including to the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights.

The Governments reforms include the removal of immigration from the scope of legal aid, and a 10% cut in legal aid fees for refugees seeking asylum within the UK. Immigration accounts for around 60% of IAS's income. There are few organisations that could cope with the compound effect of removal of immigration from the scope of legal aid and a cut in fees for asylum clients.

The IAS has been in discussion with the Legal Services Commission (LSC) in an attempt to gain support for a solvent restructure of its operations. IAS had also tried to reach an agreement with LSC for an extended period to repay monies which (in common with many other firms) had been claimed in error, partly, in IAS's view, due to the complex funding rules in place. The legal aid cuts put IAS in the position of needing to fund any repayment of these monies, from a much reduced income base, and as a result it has not proved possible to reach agreement on a way forward.

The IAS trustees regrettably decided that all avenues of support had been exhausted for IAS to seek a solvent restructure, and that they had no alternative but to place the organisation into administration. IAS administrators will be working closely with LSC over the next few days to ensure that appropriate arrangements are made for all of IAS's clients, and clients are advised to monitor IAS's website where updates on arrangements will be posted. (www.iasuk.org)

Stephen Cork and Joanne Milner of Cork Gully LLP were appointed as joint administrators to the Immigration Advisory Service on Friday 8th July 2011.

Urgent advice to clients

Please do NOT visit any IAS office in person, even if you had an appointment booked, as all offices are now closed to such visits.

From 8 July 2011 we cannot do any more work on your case. To protect clients' legal positions as far as possible in the circumstances we have done the following:

1. IAS has written to all Tribunals and Courts informing them that IAS is in administration. We have asked that they deal sympathetically with applications for extensions of time in which to lodge appeals or comply with Court or Tribunal directions, until clients find new representatives. You can download a copy of the appropriate letter to include with your application. However you must seek new representatives as soon as you can, and make your application or appeal as near to the deadline as possible.

2. If you have an appeal hearing listed in the Tribunal (First Tier or Upper Tier) within the next two weeks please be advised that IAS has notified the Presidents of the Tribunal (First Tier and Upper Tier asking for all such cases where IAS are listed as representatives to be adjourned for four weeks to enable clients to seek alternative representation. BUT you MUST still turn up with any witnesses at the hearing, in case an adjournment is not granted in your particular case. Unfortunately we will NOT be able to provide representation, even where we have prepared your case.

3. IAS has written to the UKBA Directors of immigration and asylum, notifying them of the situation. You can download a copy of the appropriate letter to include with any application which is lodged late, to show the reason for it's being out of time.

You MUST also read and carefully follow the advice below:

Please do NOT visit any IAS office in person, even if you had an appointment arranged, unless asked to do so, as the offices will be closed.

1. If your case is already subject to an appeal (including an application for permission to appeal further) at the First Tier Tribunal or Upper Tribunal, you must immediately inform the Tribunal in writing that your legal representative, IAS, has gone into administration, and that the Tribunal must write to you direct at your own address until you notify the Tribunal of your new representative. You must quote your Tribunal case reference number, which you will find on any letter to you from the Tribunal.

The Tribunal address is:

Customer Services

Loughborough Support Centre

PO Box 7866

Loughborough

LE11 2XY

You should send this letter recorded delivery and keep a copy of it

2. If your case is already subject to an appeal or an application for permission in the Court of Appeal, you must immediately inform the Court of Appeal, Civil Division in writing that your legal representative, IAS, has gone into administration, and that the Tribunal must write to you direct at your own address until you notify the Court of your new representative. You must quote your Court of Appeal case reference number, which you will find on any letter to you from your caseworker confirming that your case is in the Court of Appeal.

The address of the Court of Appeal is:

Court of Appeal Civil Division

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand

London WC2A 2LL

3. If your case is already subject an application for judicial review in the Administrative Court you must immediately inform the Administrative Court in writing that your legal representative, IAS, has gone into administration, and that the Tribunal must write to you direct at your own address until you notify the Administrative Court of your new representative. You must quote your Administrative Court case reference number, which you will find on any letter to you from your caseworker confirming that your case is in the Administrative Court.

The address of the London Administrative Court is:

Administrative Court Office

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand

London WC2A 2LL

(If your case has been started in one of the regional Administrative Courts the London court office will inform the regional court).

4. If you or your caseworker on your behalf have made an application to the UKBA, or you believe your case is "in the Legacy” and you are waiting for a response or decision from the UKBA, you must immediately write to the UKBA at:

Change of Representative

UKBA

Lunar House

Wellesley rd

Croydon CR9 2BY

by recorded delivery, informing the UKBA that your legal representative, IAS, has gone into administration, and that the UKBA must write to you direct at your own address until you notify the UKBA of your new representative.

4. If you have a scheduled interview with the UKBA you MUST attend your interview as planned and retain the record of your interview provided by the UKBA until we advise you further regarding new representation.

5. If you have an appointment with an expert arranged by us please be advised that this has been cancelled. A new appointment, if necessary, may be arranged when you secure alternative representation.

5. If you have only recently contacted IAS, or if you have asked IAS to help with making an application or an appeal which has not yet been made, you should immediately look for a new legal representative, who will then be able to obtain a copy of your file at IAS, including any work done so far, and any evidence we have collected so far.

6. If IAS has informed you that we hold any original documents in our office, these will be kept safe, and returned to you in due course. Please write to the following address:

The Joint Administrators

Immigration Advisory Service

3rd Floor

King Edward House

135a New Street

Birmingham B2 4QT

You must provide a safe address to which we can post your documents by recorded delivery, as the offices will not be in a position to receive personal callers.

IF YOUR CASE IS URGENT (you have just been detained; you have just received a decision to deport; you have been threatened with removal from the UK, appeal deadline within a few days), you should immediately seek new representatives. Those representatives will be able to explain that IAS has closed down, and that there may be difficulties getting quick access to your case papers.

Obtaining a copy of your case file

You, or your new representative, will be able to obtain a copy of your file by making a written request to the Birmingham office at the address above. Please provide a safe address, and allow 10 days for a reply.

SR Cork and J E Milner

Joint Administrators

11 July 2011

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Immigration Advisory Service announce their decision to go into administration

www.legalservices.gov.uk, 11 July 2011

LSC to secure alternative provision as soon as possible

On 11 July 2011, Immigration Advisory Service (IAS) announced that they have gone into administration.

IAS is a not for profit charity and the largest provider of legal aid services in the asylum and immigration market. It has 14 offices across England and Scotland and operates outreach in a number of different locations nationwide.

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.

IAS clients are advised to visit IAS's website where updates on arrangements will be posted - http://www.iasuk.org/.

Anyone who needs immigration advice should contact the Community Legal Advice helpline on 0845 345 4 345

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Tens of thousands lose support as Immigration Advisory Service closes

Guardian, 11 July 2011

Charity employing 200 people goes into unannounced administration, blaming government changes to legal aid

Tens of thousands of people pursuing asylum and immigration cases have been left without support after the Immigration Advisory Service, a charity, went into unannounced administration, blaming government changes to legal aid.

More than 200 staff at the IAS discovered it had closed its doors when they turned up for work and found notices warning clients the service had ended.

The government's Legal Services Commission (LSC) alleged the collapse was due to "claims irregularities" relating to whether individuals were entitled to the legal aid provided.

The demise of the IAS came as the government's legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill is about to enter its committee stage in the Commons on Tuesday, pushing through cuts to legal aid of £350m from the Ministry of Justice's annual £2.1bn budget.

Legal aid for immigration cases has already been reduced but its provision will be entirely withdrawn under the MoJ proposals, along with state funding for most medical negligence, family, housing, employment, debt and welfare cases.

In an article for the Guardian due to appear on Tuesday, Peter Lodder QC, chairman of the Bar Council – which represents barristers – launches a strongly worded attack on cuts to legal aid, warning that they will hurt those most in need of help.

He also highlights the IAS's collapse as an example of the damage inflicted.

"The mark of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable members," Lodder says. "Look beyond the high profile sentencing reforms and you will find the government's legal aid proposals will leave many children, vulnerable people and hard-working families without any meaningful access to justice. This would be a development that none of us can take any pride in."

Newly released submissions from the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) to the MoJ about the impact of legal aid cuts also reveal that organisation's objections to the withdrawal of support for medical negligence claims. The changes, it said, could eventually add to its costs.

"We have serious concerns over the proposal to withdraw legal aid from clinical negligence claims," the NHSLA said in its response to the white paper's consultation process.

"In the absence of [other reforms], the current proposal will undoubtedly cause NHS legal costs to escalate massively … Overall, we are strongly in favour of retaining legal aid for clinical negligence cases using current eligibility criteria."

Andy Slaughter, shadow justice minister, said: "On almost every occasion that the government is asked to justify its cuts to legal assistance in clinical negligence cases, it points to the cost to the NHS.

"Now we find the NHS's own lawyers are saying it is immoral and economically misguided to prevent brain-damaged children and adults from getting justice."

But it is the collapse of the IAS that will galvanise debate about the future of legal aid. It is the second immigration advice charity within a year to go under.

Last summer Refugee Migrant Justice folded, accusing the government of undermining its work through delays to legal aid payments. Most of RMJ's clients were then transferred to IAS.

"We have about 10,000 live cases [many involving more than one person] at any one moment," said a senior IAS official, who asked not to be named.

"We are very worried about the impact on our clients. Not only had legal aid payments been delayed, but all immigration cases will be put out of the scope of legal aid [in the government's bill] and those left were subject to a 10% cut in cash terms."

Individuals pursuing immigration claims would find it hard to secure other lawyers willing to take on their cases, he feared.

Another member of staff said: "The ship has sunk. Staff are very shocked and upset. They were not aware of anything in advance until they saw the notice on the doors.

"More than 200 people are out of work. They used to work ungodly hours to go the extra mile for clients.

"It was such a joy to see clients finally receive their papers [permitting them to stay in the UK] and their lives, which had been on hold, able to start again.

"So many times I had people saying to me they wanted to work, contribute to society and pay their taxes."

A Legal Services Commission spokesman said: "The Immigration Advisory Service's decision to go into administration is theirs alone.

"During recent stewardship activities, LSC raised concerns around financial management and claims irregularities which prompted IAS trustees to conclude that the organisation was no longer financially viable.

"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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Modern Times: Osman Rasul – In Memory

Ceasefire Magazine, 3 August 2010

By Corin Faife

Ten days ago in July 2010 a friend of mine took his own life. His name was Osman Rasul, and he was a warm, kind, respectful man.

I first met Osman almost exactly six months ago. Sitting in a noisy bar I watched him walk in, hooded against the January cold and hat pulled low over his eyes, carrying a small rucksack with his few possessions inside. He sat with us and smiled sheepishly as another friend explained his story: how he had arrived in Nottingham with nowhere to stay, no money and no contacts to call on. How he had slept rough in the depths of winter and woken frozen almost stiff. How he had eventually found his way to a refugee support organisation and been given a place to crash temporarily, and how he was in need of a more permanent place to stay.

Looking at him I saw a face that had lived through many, many hardships, but still shone with the smile of a good person. And so, there and then, my housemates and I welcomed him to our home.

Over the three months that he lived with me I heard more stories from him: of the murder of his father and brother by a militia in Iraq, and his fear for his own life; of his journey to the UK in the hold of a ship, and his impossible struggle to prove his origin and identity when he had arrived with nothing; of his arrest and imprisonment after a false accusation, and his bitter disbelief when he was acquitted, a year later, to be thrown back out on the street with no life to go back to.

Living with Osman I saw firsthand the spirit-crushing inhumanity of the British asylum system, and how unremittingly bleak life can be for those who are left in limbo. Prohibited from working, with no access to housing or financial support after his first claim was rejected and still awaiting further documents to make a fresh claim, he was left destitute, forced to rely on the charity of others to his continual chagrin. His life was governed by an interminable waiting: for meetings with solicitors, for correspondence from the Home Office, above all for an end to the paralysing uncertainty in which he had lived for the best part of a decade. Still, he fought a daily struggle to build a life on the most uncertain of foundations, taking any odd jobs he could find to pay his own way in our household, visiting friends, growing herbs in an allotment or exploring the city by bicycle.

About a month ago we received a letter explaining that Refugee and Migrant Justice, the outstanding refugee-specific legal firm who were handling Osman's case, had gone into administration, bankrupted by the Government's refusal to pay for work done in a timely fashion. The thought of starting again from square one of the process, finding a new solicitor, undergoing another round of interviews, statements and still more waiting, was almost unbearable. His mental health, which had shown signs of fragility, started to decline; desperately searching for some kind of resolution he made a trip to the capital, hoping to escape the labyrinth of soulless bureaucracy and to confront the Home Office directly, to be recognised, for once, as a human being by a system constructed without humanity.

There, at the climactic moment of his journey, he was met once again with wintry indifference. And at that point the light at the end of the tunnel, which had kept him going for so long, flickered out.

There is a huge political battle which must be fought for the rights of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in Britain. Collectively they have become some of the most demonised minorities in our society, flimsy spectres that can be hauled into the public eye to provoke, and then absorb the vitriol of a populace growing ever more discontented with the status quo.

But for myself and those who knew Osman Rasul, today the bigger political picture is just the ugly backdrop to an intensely personal ritual: mourning the loss of a friend.

Further coverage of the story in the Guardian can be found here.
Support the campaign to raise money for the repatriation of Osman's body at FriendsOfOsman.wordpress.com

Corin Faife is a writer and activist. His ‘Modern Times' column appears in Ceasefire every other Tuesday.

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Immigration Advisory Service goes into administration

carons-musings.blogspot.com, 11 July 2011

In response to the news that the Immigration Advisory Service, one of the UK's leading asylum charities, has gone into administration with some 200 jobs at risk, Jean Lambert, London's Green MEP since 1999, has said:

"It is an absolute tragedy that the Immigration Advisory Service is to close.

"For almost twenty years, the IAS has provided vital free advice and representations to people faced with real immigration and asylum difficulties - people who often have had nowhere else to turn for support.

"Whilst the reasons behind the closure remain unclear, cuts to the legal aid budget are sure to have played a contributing factor - further proof that the Government's draconian spending cuts are disproportionately hitting the most vulnerable.

"With cut backs in legal aid, and increased financial pressure on local authorities and other advice agencies, the pool of experienced and knowledgeable immigration advisors is getting smaller by the day.

"This loss of experience will put lives at risk and lead to miscarriages of justice in our asylum system."

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Immigration Advisory Service in administration - Government needs to ensure access to advice and justice 

www.greenparty.org.uk, 11 July 2011

I was absolutely gutted to reported here on the BBC that the Immigration Advisory Service has gone into administration. I've had many dealings with them over the years and they have always been incredibly helpful. It saddens me to think of the massively overworked staff being suddenly propelled into unemployment.

In Scotland, the IAS had an office in Glasgow and they did a free telephone advice day on a Wednesday. This was a lifeline to many people who had immigration related problems. The immigration rules in this country are extremely complicated and the UK Border Agency does not always treat people fairly. A free advisory service to those most in need is vital.

You may remember that my friend Juliette Frangos wrote a few months ago of her concerns as a lawyer in a law centre about the cuts in Legal Aid. A situation where the most vulnerable can't access the law is not acceptable in a liberal society and a brush with the immigration system can mean the difference between life and death.

How many times have we heard of people like Janipher Maseko, the teenage mother thrown into Yarl's Wood and separated from her breastfeeding baby, or Mehdi Kazemi, the gay asylum seeker threatened with deportation to Iran. Thankfully both these stories ended with them being able to stay in this country, but how many others don't get the help they need?

I could tell you no end of stories where the UK Border Agency went against its own policies or made decisions that were just plain wrong. They aren't mine to tell, though, so I can't give you the details. Just take my word that if it hadn't been for organisations like the Immigration Advisory Service and an MP willing to go into battle on their behalf, the people concerned would have suffered even more than they did.

Imagine the stress of facing a terminal illness and your sister is refused entrance to this country - and her appeal is unlikely to be heard before you die. Imagine the fear of being told you have to live apart from your husband or wife, possibly for months or years on end. Imagine being told you have to make an expensive and potentially dangerous foreign trip to apply for a visa because of a mix up. These sorts of things happen every day and it's vital that people have someone they can go to for advice that doesn't cost the earth when they need it.

It's vital that funds are found from somewhere to keep IAS or something very like it going. IAS always had more clients on its books than it could comfortably deal with - it needed to be expanded not closed

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Our response to closure of Immigration Advisory Service (IAS)

Scottish Refugee Council, 12 July 2011

We were very concerned to hear of the closure of the Immigration Advisory Service (IAS) on 11 July 2011

The charity, which worked across England, Wales and Scotland, was the biggest of its kind and provided free legal advice on immigration and asylum cases. It went into administration on Friday 8 July.

Clients can no longer get advice from legal charity

The closure means IAS is no longer able to give legal advice or representation to any of its clients. The charity, whose Scottish arm was based in Bath Street, Glasgow, has put information on its website for all of its existing clients. Read about what to do if your solicitor was from the IAS.

Gary Christie, Head of Policy and Communications at Scottish Refugee Council, said: ‘It's dreadful news that the Immigration Advisory Service has closed. They were a very important charity providing essential legal services for people going through the complex asylum system.

‘Good legal advice for people fleeing persecution can mean the difference between life and death. If their claim is wrongly refused, they could be sent back to the horrors they fled from.

Effects of legal aid cuts in England and Wales

‘It is worrying to see the effects legal aid cuts in England and Wales have had on IAS, which have led to the closure of its Scottish offices as well. Governments must ensure that the people seeking asylum are able to get good advice wherever they are – otherwise our asylum system is fundamentally unfair.'

IAS in Scotland was recently contracted by the Scottish Legal Aid Board to provide legal representation for people detained in Dungavel. Christie added: ‘We would now like assurance that clients in Dungavel will continue to get the best legal advice they can.'

More information about solicitors working on asylum cases

If your case was being looked after by an IAS solicitor, visit their website for advice on what to do or check our How We Can Help section for a list of other solicitors in Scotland who may be able to help

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