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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

MEP: ‘Legal Aid cuts will hit refugees access to justice – again’

LONDON’S Green MEP Jean Lambert has waned that Government plans to shave £220m off the UK’s Legal Aid bill will leave refugees abandoned by the courts – for the second time.

In a statement to mark World Refugee Day 2013, she said many of those fleeing persecution by foreign legal systems would find their access to justice cut off here in the UK too – and could put the UK in breach of our international commitments.

She said: “On top of the cuts to Legal Aid in the LASPO (Legal Aid and Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders) Act, the Government wants to further limit access to legal representation for anyone who hasn’t lived in the UK for more than a year.

“That will apply to many refugees coming to the UK from countries that have persecuted them by denying them access to the courts in the first place, possibly putting us in breach of our commitments under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

“The proposed changes will affect refugees accessing legal advice whether as a victim of crime, a witness, or in civil matters relating to their housing, families and so on – rather than their immigration status.

“As we mark World Refugee Day 2013 we should be celebrating the social, economic and cultural contributions made to the UK by refugees, not cutting funding to services aimed at helping them gain access to justice in the first place.

“The proposed changes will result in many escaping unfair punishment at the hands of foreign governments finding themselves in a similar situation here – and they must by abandoned.”