Immigration charity had missing cash

A government-backed immigration charity - to the tune of £15m - has imploded following claims of mis-spent funding. Auditors found worrying levels of financial accountability at the Immigration Advisory Service (IAS). In some cases there was no paperwork to show where cash was deployed.

Routes cut

Funding was even thrown at ineligible applicants. Inevitably some funding in such environments will not always be successfully targeted. It takes time (and cash) to find out just whose case deserves support. But taxpayer support at this level (£15m) does need to be accountable.

The IAS are part-blaming complex funding rules for the collapse, as well as cuts to legal aid. The organisation will now likely be terminated, with the loss of 200 staff jobs in 14 offices.

The move almost mirrors the government''s new legal aid bill which commences its committee stage today in the Commons, which aims to slash the total legal aid by £350m from an overall £2.1bn budget.

Homeward bound?

The real victims here will be those people seeking asylum for genuine reasons. Or those fighting a bureaucrat error through appeal. Or just trying to understand the UK's sometimes bewildering and ambiguous Home Office guidelines.

It will probably mean more work for lawyers and may make for a more convoluted court process. But a charity that provides services for people who are in the UK illegally must know that they must be not just accountable but seen to be accountable, especially in the current climate.

Few other countries in the world provide taxpayer-funded advice to illegal immigrants. An avenue of good, independent advice is now closed to them - a shame in a civilized society.
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