The need for DAS
DAS provides free, impartial and confidential immigration advice to those detained or threatened with detention under immigration powers.
We have a long history of working in the prison estate, and currently we regularly visit prisons across London and the south of England. We also provide advice via phone and post to those held in prisons and immigration removal centres we do no visit.
"It looks like everything is going the right way now. I would like to thank you again for your concern and your help ... I don't know what would happen if you weren't there for us" (DAS client).
The importance of independent immigration advice in prisons
As well as serving the sentence handed to them by the criminal courts, a significant proportion of foreign nationals – who now make up around 13% of the prison population – will also face the threat of deportation action. Prison Service Instruction 52/2011 clearly sets out that "it is important that prison establishments ensure that both UKBA and independent immigration advice are available for prisoners to access when it is required."
Who can be deported?
A broad range of offences can trigger deportation action. Under the provisions of the UK Borders Act 2007, non-EEA nationals sentenced to a year or more in prison face automatic deportation. EEA nationals who have received a sentence of two years or more, or a sentence of at least twelve months for a violent, sexual or drug-related offence will also be considered for deportation.
Deportation action applies to all those classed as foreign nationals, including those who are long-term UK residents, and whose family, friends and connections are entirely in this country. The consequences of deportation are grave: those who are deported from the UK are excluded from the country until the deportation order is revoked, which may be many years later, and must apply for revocation before they are able to seek an entry visa again.
Additionally, an increasing number of foreign national prisoners are detained under immigration powers following the expiry of their custodial sentence, whilst they are considered for deportation. A report by the Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency has highlighted that in February 2007, approximately 1,300 foreign national prisoners were detained post-sentence; by January 2011, this had increased to 1,667.
Although some post-sentence foreign nationals will be transferred to an immigration removal centre, a significant number will remain in prison. In January 2011, just under 50% of the foreign nationals being detained post-sentence were being held in the prison estate.
What we do
Ensuring that clients are fully informed about their situation is integral to DAS' work. For many foreign national prisoners and detainees, language is a significant barrier, and having to face the complexities of both the criminal justice and immigration systems can be extremely confusing, and sometimes distressing.
DAS advice workers provide immigration advice so that clients are able to gain a full understanding of their circumstances, even if this means explaining to someone that they are unlikely to be able to remain in the UK. We help foreign national prisoners and detainees to understand and exercise their rights, and to make informed choices. DAS advisers also help to facilitate processes within prisons.
For those who need legal representation, we maintain a rota of experienced solicitors who will take immigration case referrals.
You can find out more about the type of work we do in our case studies section.