This Refugee Week BHT wants to acknowledge and celebrate the life-saving work being done by our Immigration Legal Service (ILS), which has helped hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers with legal support. It provides free legal advice and representation delivered by specialist solicitors and caseworkers under the Legal Aid Scheme.
BHT is the only legal aid representation and advice provider in Sussex for refugees and asylum seekers, and as such our services are highly in demand. Last year the ILS achieved positive outcomes for 80% of the clients whose cases they took on.
The work of the ILS is demanding at the best of times, but even more so during the current pandemic. Our advisers have risen admirably to the challenge of having to swap face-to-face meetings for conference calls with clients and interpreters, managing to support existing clients and take on new ones.
The majority of those we work with are ‘unaccompanied minors’; young people and children arriving in the UK who have often endured unimaginable suffering, and who have no adults to look after their welfare. We would usually accompany them to an initial interview at the Home Office in Croydon but this is not safe currently, given that it requires close contact and waiting in an enclosed area with many others for up to five hours. We have successfully worked with local Children’s Social Services teams to lobby the Home Office to allow fingerprints and biometrics to be taken locally instead, a small victory which means that the start of the asylum process does not have to be delayed.
Sue Hennell, BHT’s Senior Advice Manager, said:
The Immigration Legal Service provides a crucial service for some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Our solicitors and advisors take time to build trust with clients, so that they feel comfortable to disclose details of their lives and fears which help to build the strongest cases possible. The high success rate of the service is a testament to this.