Who? Daniel Merriman, solicitor, Wilson Solicitors LLP, Tottenham, London.
Why is he in the news? Represented an appellant in the legal challenge against the government’s policy of sending asylum-seekers to Rwanda. Last week the Supreme Court unanimously ruled the government’s policy unlawful, as deportees would face a ‘real risk’ of refoulement.
Thoughts on the case: ‘Winning the case means so much for my client but it is wider than that. There are tens of thousands of asylum seekers in the UK with ‘notices of intent’ who are under threat of not being able to make their asylum claims in the UK. While the ruling does not preclude third-country agreements for offshore processing of asylum claims as a ‘deterrent’, it did feel that we were fighting for people’s future ability to seek protection in the UK.
‘Big questions remain. Will the judgment make other similar third-country agreements around the world less likely? Does it reinforce the position of human rights underpinned by international law and primary legislation in the UK, or is the rule of law under further threat from this government? It certainly seems the government will do all they can to pursue this particular arrangement.’
Dealing with the media: ‘Without media training, it has been an interesting learning process. I have noted the differences between media, domestic and abroad, the former tending to take the government line as the starting point for discussion and the latter wondering more how Britain got to this point. There are still a lot of fundamental misunderstandings out there regarding the scheme.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘I’d been told I should turn my hand to law by a few people during my undergraduate degree in international history and politics, and not just during arguments! My mother’s family are Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and so I’ve had inherent exposure to asylum and human rights issues. My younger sister also has a disability and so I was naturally drawn to acting on behalf of vulnerable people who need to fight harder than others just to achieve the same rights.’
Career high: ‘I got my client off the 14 June 2022 flight to Rwanda with half an hour to spare after an application to the European Court of Human Rights. I was back from annual leave that day and therefore had to enlist help from colleagues. The collaboration on the case ever since and working with leaders in the field (both solicitors and barristers) in the challenge up to the Supreme Court has been a career highlight.’
Career low: ‘The prospect of having asylum claims essentially banned, and so needing to fight for clients to even have the prospect of making a claim, is not something I thought would be on the horizon.’