Partner and immigration lawyer Milla Walker has contributed to an article reporting on the legal aid crisis, in Open Democracy.
The article highlights how more than 40% of asylum seekers in England and Wales may be unable to access legal aid due to a lack of funding. Milla explains that there has been no increase in legal aid funding during her 17 years of practice: ‘If anything, there has been a decrease. It is systemic underfunding that has led to fewer and fewer providers.’
As law firms decrease the number of legal aid cases and increase the amount of private and corporate clients they take on to stay afloat, more asylum seekers are being turned away than ever.
‘I used to look at new enquiries that came in and think about whether or not I could take them on,’ Milla says. ‘I can’t even look at them now. I just immediately say no because the capacity just isn’t there.’
Some providers are forced to cease offering legal aid altogether leaving previous clients and asylum seekers to find legal aid representation elsewhere and overwhelming the few legal aid providers left where solicitors are working tirelessly to help those they can.
‘It is a desperate situation’ says Milla. ‘It is frustrating because the problem is so obvious. We have been warning about this for the last 15 years, and now it is at a crunch point where the system is collapsing and unfit for purpose.’
This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please note that the law may have changed since the date this article was published. You should always take legal advice relating to your individual circumstances.