News Release

SRA begins review of legal support for asylum seekers

The SRA has unveiled a programme of work to better understand how the legal service market serves asylum seekers.

This is part of a wider commitment to improving knowledge about vulnerable consumers and how they access legal services. A new report, commissioned by the SRA and written by Migration Work CIC, Refugee Action and Asylum Research Consulting (ARC), involved interviews with asylum seekers and those involved in guiding them towards or providing legal advice.

The report found some evidence of solicitors not fully understanding relevant laws, including immigration and nationality law, family law and child law. There was also evidence pointing towards solicitors relying on interpreters who spoke the wrong language, and some who overcharged or were not clear about the cost of their services.

However, the report also found examples of good practice. This included solicitors working through correspondence from the Home Office to explain its meaning and implication, sending text messages to keep clients updated, and following up meetings with letters clearly setting out what had been agreed.

There were also cases of solicitors helping their clients by co-ordinating with specialists in housing, health, counselling and social work. The SRA will now move to the next phase in this programme of work with an in-depth, thematic review to explore further the issues the report highlighted and identify any regulatory measures which might be needed.

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: "We act in the public interest and, as part of that, we need to consider how solicitors and law firms are serving vulnerable people. This initial report has identified much good practice, but also some concerns that need addressing.

"In response to this study and additional evidence, we are now investigating some firms.

"This is a sensitive and complex area of law and we need to better understand how it is working in practice, and that is why it is right to commit to an in-depth study. Asylum seekers requiring legal advice and support are particularly vulnerable and may be fleeing torture, imprisonment and death. The consequences of getting it wrong can be tragic and we will work with other organisations and law firms themselves to tackle any issues and to help improve the services they offer."

The SRA will complete its thematic review later his year.

The report was co-funded by the Legal Ombudsman. It can be found here:

Go to the report

 
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