JRS UK is beginning a new project to provide legal advice for people pursuing asylum claims, whose claims have already been refused before.
What is the motivation for this project?
Those we serve have been let down by an unjust system. They have come here seeking refuge and wanting to rebuild their lives, but found the system for determining their claims is stacked against them. Most of those we work with are pursuing what the Home Office considers new, or “fresh” asylum claims. There are many ways in which the asylum system has let them down the first time round. One of them is that there is inadequate legal support to navigate this very complicated system. Like most legal systems, it isn’t easy to understand without legal training, and there are hoops you have to jump through, so a good lawyer is really important. And once you’ve had an initial refusal, even if that was very unfair, it can be quite difficult to unpick, and it can be even more difficult to get the kind of legal support that is vital to a just asylum process. So we want to help provide that support.
But isn’t legal aid available for asylum claims?
It is, but legal aid cuts mean that most solicitors don’t have the time to work as closely as they’d like with clients on cases, or to work with experts to compile the necessary evidence – such as gathering testimonies from people in other countries. Many, many people who are initially refused are eventually recognised as refugees. In researching this project, we spoke to a number of immigration solicitors about why this may be the case; often it stems from misunderstandings in the original application that could have been picked up and resolved by good legal advice.
So will this project be an alternative to legal aid?
Not exactly. We want to hire an experienced immigration solicitor to work really intensively with those we serve, helping to prepare fresh claims for them. They’d have the time to get to know them and really understand their case. This would mean they could lay a case out in the detail it needs and deserves. The case would then be passed on to a legal aid solicitor to take it forward. The project will involve close working relationships and collaboration with others in the legal profession as well.
And how will this project fit within JRS’ current work?
It will be an important part of our service to destitute refugees who are struggling to gain recognition, and it will also give JRS UK as an organisation insight into the asylum process from a fresh angle, which will feed into our advocacy. The legal officer will collaborate really closely as part of the JRS team, and also have the chance to really take the lead on how the project develops.
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