Howarth acts on plan to cut legal advice at Oakington

June 10, 2009 11:01 AM

HowarthPlans to cut the amount of legal advice on offer to detainees on arrival at Oakington Immigration Centre, has led to action by Cambridge MP David Howarth.

He raised the issue during a debate on the immigration centre in the House of Commons on Monday.

The move, to reduce the hours worked by Immigration Advisory Service staff, would mean detainees would not get legal advice on arrival at the centre if they arrive in the evenings or at weekends.

Mr Howarth, who was contacted about the issue by a number of his constituents, has also raised the matter with Phil Woolas, the Minister of State for Immigration and Borders, who welcomed his intervention during the debate.

"Legal advice is no longer available on a 24-hour basis, even though detainees are likely to be brought into the centre at any time," Mr Howarth said during the debate.

"There used to be comprehensive legal cover, but now the Immigration Advisory Service is to be allowed to offer that advice only during office hours, yet, because of the withdrawal of advice from the Refugee Council, the IAS was basically doing welfare work too."

After the debate Mr Howarth added: "I share the worries of my constituents about the detrimental effect the lack of access to legal advice in the evening and weekends will have on the detainees, many of whom are extremely vulnerable. This is a very worrying development.

"Cambridgeshire suffers from a desperate shortage of immigration lawyers and this reduction in working hours for staff can serve only to make the matter worse."

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