A law centre is to improve access to justice for asylum-seeking children by taking on and funding appeals referred to it by legal aid firms, it emerged last week.
Hammersmith and Fulham Law Centre (HFLC) has invited publicly funded firms to submit cases to it that they do not have the financial resources to take to appeal.
HFLC said it will conduct around 50 asylum appeals, and will use these to build a body of case law against which the appeal process can be tested. Law firms and other bodies representing asylum seekers will then be able to measure their own cases against the criteria established by these appeals, and decide how to proceed.
There are currently around 4,000 unaccompanied asylum seekers under the age of 18 who have been granted discretionary leave to remain in the UK. They risk being returned to their country of origin once they reach majority unless they appeal and win the right to permanent residency. The appeals process is underused, however, because Legal Services Commission funding is difficult to secure, and because many costly appeals fail through lack of legal foundation.
HFLC refugee children project leader Rachiel de Chavez said: ‘Law firms need not be afraid of turning triumph into failure. The granting of discretionary leave is not the ultimate goal. The possibility of being returned still exists and it is only by appealing that indefinite leave to remain can be won.’
Meanwhile, the Immigration Law Practitioners Association has begun a two-and-a-half year project to provide free training sessions on all aspects of refugee children law. It will also publish regular information bulletins, updates and best practice guidelines.