Just nine firms carrying out legal aid immigration work in Northern Ireland
Just nine law firms are available to undertake legal aid work in immigration and asylum law in Northern Ireland, according to a new report.
The report, produced by barrister and researcher Dr Jo Wilding for Refugee Action Good Practice, examines access to immigration legal advice in different parts of the UK and is believed to be the first piece of work looking at access to immigration advice in Northern Ireland.
It notes that, at the outset of the research, the Law Society of Northern Ireland’s website listed 99 firms doing immigration legal work, but “many of these firms did not undertake immigration work in practice”.
“During the fieldwork period, the Law Society of NI agreed to ask all members to confirm whether they actively undertook immigration work, after which it published a list of just nine solicitors’ firms, all but one of which is in Belfast,” the report continues.
“There are a small number of other firms actively involved but this appears to be no more than 10-15 firms regularly doing immigration work, although 39 firms were paid for at least one advice and assistance case in immigration and asylum in 2020-21.”
The report points out that there were only 63 grants for representation in the First-Tier Tribunal in 2021, which it says “does not appear to be adequate provision for representation on appeals, given the number of people in asylum support in NI during the same period”.
A spokesperson for the Law Society told Irish Legal News: “The Law Society of Northern Ireland has consistently raised concerns about access to justice across Northern Ireland.
“The acute difficulties in immigration practice highlighted by this report further underlines the need for sustainable publicly funded legal services.
“The Society remains committed to working with the justice minister and across government to deliver access to justice for everyone in Northern Ireland.”