Cap on non-EU migrant workers splits Government

Immigration policies are under scrutiny as legal case challenges coalition over asylum agency's closure

The Government is expected to impose a temporary limit tomorrow on the number of migrant workers from outside the EU allowed into the UK, ahead of a planned permanent cap. The move comes days before asylum-seekers are due to bring an unprecedented legal case against the Government, claiming it forced Britain's largest network of refugee lawyers into administration by starving it of cash.

Home Secretary Theresa May will limit the number of workers to 24,100 – down about 5 per cent – between now and April 2011. Pressure groups campaigning for greater controls on immigration have welcomed the motion as "a good start". But some ministers are believed to oppose the move, while think-tanks and trade groups claim it would bar talented foreign workers from the UK labour market.

Tory London Mayor Boris Johnson last night also urged the Government to rethink. "A crude cap could be very detrimental to the free movement of the talented, creative and enterprising people who have enabled London to be such a dominant global force," a spokesman for Mr Johnson said.

Meanwhile, the Government's immigration policy will be called into question by a High Court test case which is to be brought on Wednesday. Two families and a child will seek leave for a judicial review on behalf of some 10,000 people who have been left stranded by the collapse of Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ).

The organisation, which employs about 330 people working on asylum claims, trafficking and immigration cases, went into administration 10 days ago after the Legal Services Commission (LSC) terminated its contract. Without lawyers to fight their cases, all of RMJ's former clients now face the prospect of being deported.

Lawyers bringing this week's test case will demand assurance from the Home Secretary that nobody will be deported until new lawyers are appointed. They will also call on the Government to cover the costs of transferring the cases or continue funding RMJ.

The Children's Commissioner, Maggie Atkinson, will provide evidence. "I was very concerned to learn that hundreds of children in the asylum system would be unrepresented," she said. "Our aim in intervening is to ensure that these children – who are in the asylum system – are properly safeguarded and that adequate arrangements are put in place to ensure their continued legal representation."

Changes to the legal aid system meant that RMJ waited up to two years to receive payments on cases. Despite a high-profile campaign which saw everyone from senior politicians to legal experts and the Archbishop of Canterbury pleading with the Government to intervene, the charity went into administration.

Mark Scott. a solicitor from Bhatt Murphy, representing RMJ's clients, said: "Many people could now be returned to a place where they fear for their safety without having the opportunity to have their arguments heard. There's been no contingency planning by the LSC and the Secretary of State for Justice as to what would happen to these clients."

Alison Harvey, the general secretary of the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association, whose organisation will be intervening in the case, says the current legal aid system "puts those who do legal aid work in this field, and thus their clients, at risk".

Earlier this month, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote to Mrs May and Justice Secretary Ken Clarke to express his fears about the charity's collapse. "Lives will be put at risk and there are likely to be many more miscarriages of justice," he said.

The test case highlights the likely impact of proposed £335m cuts to the £2bn legal aid budget, which critics say could deny many vulnerable people access to justice.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The highest priority must be the clients of Refugee and Migrant Justice. The Legal Services Commission is working closely with the administrator, the Tribunals Service and others to ensure that urgent arrangements are made so that clients continue to receive a good-quality service. It is important that asylum-seekers have fair access to legal advice.

"We fully appreciate the value that organisations bring in providing this service to particularly vulnerable clients. The LSC worked closely with RMJ for the past few years, for precisely this reason, and as a result they have received substantial support to help them transfer to the current payment system." He refused to comment on the judicial review.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map