Law Soc asylum plans spark 'closed shop' fear

Aclec has warned that the Law Society's proposed immigration accreditation scheme, due to be launched in August 1999, could result in a “closed shop”.

An Aclec report on improving the quality of immigration advice and representation, published last week, claims the drive to clamp down on unscrupulous advisers may restrict the supply of good immigration advice.

Although the report praises the society's plans to introduce an accreditation scheme for immigration advisers, it wants a two-tier scheme – one panel made up of specialists and another made of more general practitioners.

It argues: “It would be a mistake to allow regulation of the unscrupulous to become the sole focus of attention to the exclusion of the need to bring about more general improvements through the development of appropriate standards of education, training, conduct and overall competence in this field.”

But Richard Dunstan, secretary of the Law Society's immigration law sub-committee, said Aclec's proposal would confuse clients, be expensive to administer and undermine the scheme by increasing the registration fee.

The society plans to accredit only solicitors with at least three years' post-qualification immigration law experience, and non-solicitors working in solicitors' offices with three years' immigration experience who are supervised by a solicitor.