Under freedom of information, The Burkean can reveal a marked fourteen-fold increase in free legal aid costs billed to the taxpayer since 2015. From figures obtained from the Legal Aid Board, the body charged with handling free legal aid for asylum applications, the amount of money spent handling asylum claims increased fourteen fold from €87,259 in 2015 to €1,243,907 in 2020.
With the number of asylum claims referred to the Board remaining relatively constant the average cost of an asylum application processed by the Legal Aid Board increased from €56 per application in 2015 to €1058 in 2020.
|International Protection Applications||1,537||1,658||1,489||2,079||2,571||1,174|
In response to our inquiries, a spokesman from the Legal Aid Board described a 2017 change of procedure of referring private lawyers to asylum applicants from the outset of their claim as being the driving factor behind the rise in cost. Prior to this applicants generally received legal assistance for the appeal stage of their application upon refusal.
A statutory body, the Legal Aid Board employs 450 staff in total with 3 centres offering services pertaining to international protection. While the above figures give a general approximation as to the cost of legal aid to the taxpayer the figures do not include some salary and clerical costs.
The services on offer from the Board include assistance in any written submissions made for the sake of the application, as well as providing representation for any appeals should the application be rejected by the International Protection Office. For applicants with savings of less than €4,000 there is a contributory fee of €10, but otherwise the service is free.
Separate to free legal aid costs, The Burkean earlier this week delved into the cumulative costs of the asylum appeals process, with €268,247 being spent on outsourced legal fees for the appeals board for international protection applicants.
Warts and all the Board provides a very noble role in a very ignoble profession, providing legal representation to those in veritable need. However similar to persistent abuses within the system and considering the endemic asylum fraud within the entire process one wonders if it merely is just another barrier frustrating the system. To some €1.2 million a year may seem to be a relatively paltry sum in an era when billions are dolled out to fuel covid mania, however it goes a long way to hindering an already over-encumbered asylum system. It is long overdue for a streamlining if not complete cessation of a perennially risible asylum apparatus, and the less lawyers the better.