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June 1999, Volume 6, Number 6

UK: Legal Aid, Cricket

Legal Aid. The UK government provides L48 million ($77 million) a year to British lawyers to provide legal advice to immigrants. In May 1999, the Legal Aid Board said 70 London law firms were overcharging immigrants and asylum seekers by up to 50 percent, charging for work not done and giving bogus advice. About 800 firms in England and Wales provide immigration services with public funds, and the Board is recommending that 100 firms be barred from serving immigrants. The Board would also like to change the system of reimbursement to persuade firms to handle more cases, and to contract out some immigration advice work to the Refugee Legal Council and the Immigration Advisory Service.

Cricket. The UK is hosting the Cricket World Cup and visitors from Sri Lanka and other Asian nations are being quizzed about their knowledge of the game by British High Commission staff and immigration officers. About 600 of an estimated 5,000 Indian fans have been questioned by officials in Colombo before heading to Britain. The Foreign Office confirmed on May 17 that questions were being asked to establish whether an applicant was a bona fide cricket fan, but denied that Asian visitors were being singled out for questioning.

Bill. The Labor government's Immigration and Asylum Bill is in trouble with both Labor and Conservative members of Parliament. It would change the British system of supporting asylum seekers; instead of the current cash benefit, they would be given vouchers worth 70 per cent of the [[sterling]]28.75 ($46) weekly payments, plus [[sterling]]1 ($1.60) a day in cash and an additional 50p a day for each child aged over three. Opponents say this is not enough.

Ireland. The Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants in May 1999 reported that there were 1.2 million Irish-born persons living abroad, 65 percent of them in the UK. About half of the 20,000 emigrants each year move to the UK; most are young and poorly educated.

The Irish Supreme Court upheld a High Court ruling on May 20 that part of the Aliens Act is unconstitutional, in effect suspending all deportations of non-nationals until the law is changed. The Irish government hopes to have a new immigration bill passed into law before the Dail recesses in July.

Carol Coulter, "State loses appeal on power to deport immigrants," Irish Times, May 21, 1999. Carol Coulter, "Study finds emigration high among the ill-educated and marginalised," Irish Times, May 19, 1999. Linus Gregoriadis, "Testing Time for Cricket Visitors," The Independent, May 18, 1999. Frances Gibb, "Immigration lawyers face legal aid ban: 'Cowboy' firms are giving bogus advice and overcharging," The Times, May 18, 1999.