People walking by the Ministry of Justice

The Illegal Migration Bill will create an urgent increase in demand for legal aid, but do new plans to pay for that work actually address the problem? And will the result be better access to justice for people caught up in the immigration system?


Now that the Illegal Migration Bill has become law, the Ministry of Justice has proposed that hourly fees should be 15% higher for legal aid providers whose work deals with the consequences of this new act.

While it’s clear that there will be a massive workload around the Illegal Migration Bill and the people it proposes to deport, we do not consider the 15% uplift sufficient to address these challenges and make sure that clients are properly represented.

We instead recommend that the Ministry of Justice:

  • Commits to increasing fees across immigration legal aid sustainably, in line with inflation
  • Creates incentives for young legal aid practitioners to stay in legal aid practice, like funding their training
  • Simplifies the billing and payment process, as well as raising interpreter fees that haven’t increased from £25 per hour since 2011
  • Plan a carefully considered review of Illegal Migration Bill fees after one year

The whole legal aid sector has been struggling for years due to administrative burdens and fees that haven’t been increased since 1996. Providers have closed across areas where thousands of eligible migrants are already seeking legal aid. New cases involving the Illegal Migration Bill will be complex and highly time sensitive, stretching capacity that is already at breaking point.

If the proposal truly reflected the scale of the challenges, it would suggest higher fees across the sector. Increasing them for only one area also creates the risk that providers will have more incentive to take this work and ignore vulnerable people who are already in the system.

A 15% uplift for one specific area is too little and too late, given the scale of the issues that the Illegal Migration Bill will cause – as well as the current desperate state of immigration legal aid for both providers and clients.

For more on the sustainability crisis facing the immigration and asylum legal aid sectors, read our recent report for Young Legal Aid Lawyers by Dr. Jo Hynes.