Dos and don'ts of getting advice
- Get legal advice quickly
- Beware of fraudsters
Akbar was on his way to the Refugee Arrivals Project (an independent charity that helps newly arrived asylum seekers and refugees) when someone claiming to be a solicitor picked him up, asked him for his papers and £200 - all the money he had with him. They drove him round and round the airport for 45 minutes, before dumping him. Akbar finally arrived late and penniless.
You may meet people who say they are solicitors/advisers waiting near the information desks at the airport or outside ports when you first arrive. They may say they want to help you but in fact intend to cheat you.
- Stop and think before you hand over your documents
Sometimes solicitors/advisers need your original immigration documents, for example, to send to the Home Office. You should get a photocopy of them as well as a receipt listing each document you have handed over before you leave their offices. They may say they will send copies to you in the post. Don't accept this. Ask for a photocopy and a receipt when you hand over the documents. But be wary of any solicitor or adviser who keeps your original documents for no apparent reason; they may try to use them as a way to keep you as their client.
- Look after your documents
They are valuable and if they fall into the wrong hands a criminal will be able sell them for a lot of money.
Ahmed was from Chechnya and a Muslim. He was told that it was better not to mention that he was Muslim, because "people in the west don't like them". Unfortunately he believed this and he told the authorities he was Russian. He ruined his chances of getting asylum by lying.
- Don't always listen to well meaning friends
Beware if friends suggest that you make up bits of your story; this usually leads to trouble and you (and your friend) could be committing a criminal offence.
- Don't assume that everyone asking for money is dishonest
This is not always the case. There are good solicitors/advisers who don't carry out legal aid work. It is normal for them to charge for their services.
- Don't be influenced by the offer of money or gifts
Anybody offering you perks like cash or a mobile phone to be their client is likely to be an incompetent fraudster. Although it's tempting at the time, their present won't be worth much if you lose your case.
This is money to pay for legal advice and help for those with little savings and on a low income. If you get asylum support you are automatically eligible for legal aid for asylum and immigration advice. The Legal Services Commission (LSC) pay solicitors/advisers who they have approved to provide this advice.