The new assessment scheme for legal aid asylum advisers launched by the Legal Services Commission and the Law Society could turn into a witch hunt, Amnesty International's UK director Kate Allen has warned.
Allen claims that the scheme, which aims to identify and root out poor-quality advisers, risks being badly handled given the current hostile climate towards immigration and asylum issues.
The scheme requires that professionals who give legal advice to immigrants and asylum seekers under Legal Services Commission contracts receive accreditation from professional training company CLT. Those who fail will be unable to practise under Legal Services Commission contracts.
"Besmirching an entire branch of the legal profession is bad for British law and bad for vulnerable asylum seekers," Allen said.
But the Immigration Advisory Service, one of the charities to which the scheme applies, welcomed the scheme. Michael Pickett, the charity's director of operations, said: "I know legal advisers who have the best intentions but who are actually working beyond their capacity because they lack the relevant training."
Legal Services Commission contractors have until 31 May to register for the accreditation scheme.