Nearly half of immigration detainees do not have legal representation, according to latest research from an independent charity, which says the figure is ‘at odds’ with the British value of the rule of law.

Bail for Immigration Detainees says one in five of the detainees it spoke to has never had legal representation during their detention. By contrast, four in five detainees had legal representation prior to the government introducing its controversial legal aid cuts in April 2013.

Of the 53% who currently have a legal representative, just over half have their representative paid for through legal aid, the remainder being privately funded.

BID policy and research manager John Hopgood said: ‘Around half of the 30,000 people who are detained every year are released without being deported. They face being separated from their families and locked up often without proper explanation – a scary and frustrating experience.

‘That so many people are forced to go through that without access to the legal help they need is unacceptable – and at odds with the British value of the rule of law. The only way to right this wrong is to ensure that legal aid is automatically available to the people who need it the most.’

The charity spoke to 138 detainees; 122 held in immigration removal centres and 16 in prison.

At least one in 10 detainees waited for more than three weeks for an appointment with the detention duty adviser. Nearly four in 10 waited between one and two weeks; a quarter waited between two and three weeks.

Five out of 86 detainees received independent advice about their immigration case while they were in prison. Nearly two-thirds of respondents reported that they had been blocked from accessing websites that might help them with their case.