The Home Office is looking for people who want to give immigration advice to victims of trafficking. We have produced the information below about this so victims, support workers and anyone interested in applying is aware of what we currently know about the plans.
On 14 December 2017 the Home Office published an expression of interest (EOI) for organisations who want to deliver immigration legal services to victims of modern slavery:
What is the EOI about?
The Home Office wants to increase access to independent expert immigration advice for victims of modern slavery. It would like organisations accredited with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) to register interest if they want to provide immigration advice to victims. The deadline to register is 12 February at 12pm.
Is there any extra money to pay people who provide advice in answer to the EOI?
No. The Home Office has told the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group “there is not a separate pot of funding” for advice given further to this EOI.
It is not clear if there will be a charge to victims for advice and/or extra costs like interpreter and expert reports.
What accreditation is needed to answer the EOI?
Advisors must have OISC accreditation to reply but the Home Office EOI form does not ask for proof or what level is held. The Home Office is apparently not requiring advisors who reply to the EOI to have a legal aid contract.
Under OISC rules, if advisors are to give advice about applications for discretionary leave (which is what some victims going through the NRM can obtain) they will need to be competent to OISC Level 2 before they give this advice.
In an email to the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group the Home Office said that the target audience for the EOI is OISC accredited immigration advisors but other qualified advisors (for example, solicitors) can apply.
What other selection and supervision criteria will apply for people who answer the EOI?
This is not clear. In an email to the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group the Home Office said they want “to find OISC accredited advisors with the relevant expertise, experience or drive to provide impartial and independent immigration advice”. There is therefore no mandatory requirement to show experience or knowledge in the area.
Is there legal aid for all victims of trafficking who need immigration advice?
No. The Home Office states that victims are entitled to legal to receive immigration advice. Unfortunately, not all victims are.
The government’s position on legal aid is not clear. However, the government has told ATLEU that it interprets the law on legal aid to say:
- A victim of trafficking with a positive reasonable grounds decision does not have a right to free immigration advice about how to get discretionary leave as a victim. The process to obtain discretionary leave is not an application for leave to remain in the government’s view, so victims don’t have a right to legal aid for immigration advice to help them get discretionary leave while they are in the National Referral Mechanism (NRM).
- Victims cannot get legal aid to help them get a final decision that they are a victim of modern slavery, even if they are applying for discretionary leave to remain as a victim while they are still in the NRM.
- Victims do have a right to free immigration advice about the NRM if they have an asylum case that has “significant overlap” with the trafficking case.
ATLEU has a judicial review against the government about this issue which will have a hearing in court on 17 April 2018.
The government has been asked to publicise their position on what immigration advice is and is not covered by legal aid for victims of trafficking. This has not yet been done.
The government has said if victims of trafficking want legal aid for advice on discretionary leave and the NRM they can attempt to obtain this by applying for exceptional legal aid funding.