AVID Training
(You need to be a member and logged in to view this video)

Accessing legal advice in detention 

If you are in an immigration removal centre (IRC), you are eligible for free legal (legal aid funded) advice under what is called the Detention Duty Advice Scheme. 

Under this scheme, you can book a free 30-minute appointment with a solicitor in the detention centre. There are certain legal aid firms who attend these surgeries, and they will visit the centre on a rota basis. Different lawyers visit each week. To book an appointment you should contact the welfare team at the detention centre. There can be waiting lists for an appointment.

Your appointment will only be 30 minutes and so it is useful to come prepared to your appointment with information on your immigration case and any documents that you have. You can also request a translation service at your appointment.

During the appointment, the solicitor will ask you about your immigration case and establish whether they can take on your case because you qualify for legal aid. They should also provide you with advice on bail (applications for release from detention while you wait for a decision on your immigration case). They should give you a summary of your appointment at the end of the meeting. Make sure to ask for the contact details of the lawyer who you meet with so that you can follow up with them afterwards.

Legal aid is available for asylum claims, unlawful detention challenges and for bail. The law firm will make a decision on whether they can take on your case and offer legal aid based on the 'merits' of your case (this means how likely the case is to succeed) and your ‘means’ (your financial circumstances). Only law firms with a DDA contract at the immigration removal centre can take on your case under legal aid. If you have a non-DDA solicitor working for you before you are detained, and they are still working for you, then they can carry on doing so as long as they have already spent at least five hours on your case.

If you are in Dungavel IRC in Scotland then legal aid is also available for other types of immigration cases.

If you are in held under immigration powers in prison then you should also have access to 30 minutes free legal advice. However, lawyers do not come to the prison. Instead, you will need to call law firms with a legal aid contract, explaining that you are held in prison under immigration powers and making arrangements to receive 30 minutes free legal advice. You can ask at the prison for a list of lawyers. This flyer from Migrants Organise also includes a list of legal aid lawyers.

If legal advice is not available, then you might also be able to apply for Exceptional Case Funding if your human rights would be breached if you do not get funding for a lawyer.

What to expect from your lawyer:

When a lawyer first takes on your case, you should receive a ‘client care letter’. This is an important document confirming who is acting for you, your instructions, what work will be done at the outset and how the legal work is regulated.

You might find the chapter “Legal Advice and Representation” in our Handbook for visitors (which you will find a link to on "Are you a Visitor" useful for further information on what to expect from a lawyer.

How AVID and Visitor Groups can support you:

AVID is not able to give legal advice. You can contact AVID to be connected to a visitor group and for general questions about detention.

Visitor groups in the AVID network can provide you with further advice on finding a lawyer. They cannot offer legal advice, but they can support you to understand your rights in detention, the process and where to get support. With your permission, they can follow up with your lawyer and work with you to understand the information that has been provided by your lawyer.

Bail for Immigration Detainees(BID) 

BID is a charity that works with people in detention to help secure their release. They are a small organisation, independent of the government and detention centres, working to challenge detention and help people gain their freedom. They cannot help in all cases, but you will find a wealth of information on legal rights in detention and how to access bail. 

BID’s advice line is open Monday- Thursday between 10 am and 12 midday and outside of those times you can email them on casework@biduk.org.

Their number is 020 7456 9750.

Further reading and resources:

  • You can find information on how to apply for bail on the Home Office website here
  • Right to Remain Toolkit: is a guide for people going through UK’s immigration and asylum system.
  • Public Law Project have a guide on accessing legal aid – including Exceptional Case Funding available here.

Watch: Hidden Stories