When staff arrived for work at the Immigration Advisory Service on Monday, we were met by security guards hired by the administrators.
They escorted us to the buildings, where we were only allowed to collect personal belongings.
The majority of the workers were made redundant on the spot.
The staff at the Immigration Advisory Service (IAS), Britain’s biggest immigration and asylum legal advice charity, included not only lawyers, but receptionists, secretaries and paralegals—the vast majority of them women.
Their pay scales did not stray above £20,000, yet they regularly worked excessive hours and did unpaid work, because they were so committed to helping people who are vulnerable and vilified.
Their reward? The sack.
The impact on the service’s clients has been even worse. In a shocking act of dishonestly, the government claims there will be “an orderly transfer of clients to new providers”.
But all the staff in the central London office were made redundant, and most in the regional offices were as well.
In most offices, caseworkers left on Friday and their files have lain untouched for two days. The skeleton staff who remain in a handful of offices have been told they can only do work on urgent cases.
How is it even possible to identify urgent cases when the caseworkers have been kicked out the door?
The files have been abandoned for two days. Will it be two weeks? Two months?
Some immigration judges are already trying to persuade people that it will be better for their case to go ahead without a representative.
It was the government’s decision to remove legal aid from immigration work that precipitated IAS’s slide into administration.
The government must be forced by political pressure to come clean about what is happening—and stop it getting worse.
Legal advice and representation is a vital public service. What has happened to IAS is part of the massive cuts agenda.
There needs to be a massive and concerted effort to save these services, so the vital work of representing the vilified and vulnerable, and holding the government to account, can continue.