THE Government's proposed
changes to legal aid will have "serious" consequences for victims
of human trafficking, and other vulnerable people, the Mission and
Public Affairs Division of the Archbishops' Council has warned.
The Division delivered a
submission, on 31 May, to the Ministry of Justice consultation,
Transforming Legal Aid, which proposes that legal aid should be
provided only for those who have been resident in the UK for at
least 12 months.
The submission states: "Our
concern is that good legal advice and advocacy should be readily
available to all who need it, especially those whose vulnerability
places an obligation on society to ensure that they are not
defenceless against unjust treatment by any person, organisation,
or agent of government."
It says that the 12-month
residency requirement would have "serious" consequences for
"victims of human trafficking, and those who have come to this
country with a partner, whose relationship then breaks down because
they are victims of domestic violence". It reminds the Government
of its obligations, under a European directive, to give trafficking
victims "access without delay to . . . legal representation".
The submission also
questions the proposal that asylum-seekers should be denied access
to legal aid until 12 months after they have been granted asylum.
Such a proposal "appears to contravene Article 16 of the [United
Nations] Refugee Convention", which says that a refugee should be
treated in the same way "as a national in matters pertaining to
access to the courts, including legal assistance".
Those held in immigration
detention centres will also suffer under the proposals, the
Division warns, because they "will almost always not meet the
residence test. This will hinder them, for example, in bringing
legal challenge against their continued detention."
families." A report published on Monday by the All-Party
Parliamentary Group on Migration says that new rules for migrants
from outside the EU are splitting up families and causing
The Goup conducted an
inquiry into the minimum-earnings requirements, which came into
force in July last year. The requirements mean that a British
citizen must earn at least £18,600 a year to sponsor the visa of
his or her non-EU resident spouse. This rises to £22,400 for
families with one child, and increases by £2400 for each additional
Baroness Hamwee, who chaired
the Inquiry, said that the rules were "causing anguish for
The C of E submission on
legal aid can be read here.