BY TRACY-JO SMITH
A LEADING Catholic refugee service has attacked proposals by the Government to cut the legal time available for asylum seekers and refugees as "unduly harsh".
The Jesuit Refugee Service (JR S ) has condemned the plan to impose time limits on publicly-funded advice to people seeking asylum in the United Kingdom.
It warned that the plans published in a Green Paper by the Department for Constitutional Affairs. formerly the Lord Chancellor's Department, would place "undue burdens on immigration legal practitioners".
The IRS says there is already a shortage of legal advisers who are publicly or charitably funded in England and Wales.
It predicts that lawyers will abandon cases involving asylum seekers and refugees and switch to "more lucrative areas of the law", if those proposed changes are put into practice.
Director Louise Zanre said: "It takes time to build
up the necessary levels of trust and time Emits will prevent this. Despite the best will in the world, the legal adviser won't be able to act with due care and consideration of the asylum seeker's needs. And the maximum limits conveniently disregard the problem in numerous cases of interminable delays, which require repeated following up of the Holm Office by legal advisers."
The IRS submission to the Government calls on the Home Office to review the entire asylum process, putting the individual's needs and protection first.
Miss Zanre added: "Once the process has been put right, then there will be fewer appeals and considerably fewer costs to the public purse. It seems unduly hard that asylum seekers be forced to pay the price of the budget overspend through a decreased chance of getting legal advice in their cases, and the likely decrease in standards of care taken in their case by legal advisers.
"The period of consultation is now over and we await with interest to learn what decisions will be made. Our overriding concerns are for the asylum seekers. The Government should show concern and compassion for them too not just an obsession with reducing the burden on the public purse."
John • Joseet, of the Office for Refugee Policy Management Committee has accused the Government of trying to introduce an antiimmigration policy by stealth. He said: "We have a duty of care towards these people. The Bishops' Conference made a statement last November calling for rapid, calm provision of legal advice and access to the Appeals Procedure. Asylumseekers are being shortchanged.
"The logic behind it is that the Government is trying to raise the barriers of entering the UK, and obviously we don't agree with that. They're raising the stakes through a cost-benefit argument. I would appeal to rationality.
"As a Christian I respond to those marginalised by society. As our faith tells us we should take the shirt off our hack and give it to those who need it. We can't Iet these people down."