Policy Response: Welsh Assembly Government
Welsh Refugee Council’s response to Welsh Assembly Government’s Child Poverty Consultation.
Award-winning law volunteers are a fragile life-line
Welsh Refugee Council congratulates the Welsh voluntary organisation Asylum Justice on winning first prize in the national United Reformed Church Community Project Awards.
Asylum Justice, which is run entirely by volunteers, has been providing free legal advice for refused asylum seekers in Wales for several years. It works in Cardiff, Swansea and Newport. Asylum Justice is led by retired barrister Roger Warren-Evans. Other volunteers include law students and practicing lawyers offering free time.
Asylum Justice was set up when a church-based support group for asylum seekers realised that the greatest unmet need is legal advice.
Welsh Refugee Council has raised concerns with the Welsh Assembly and the Legal Services Commission about the lack of legal advice for refused asylum seekers in Wales.
One of the most expert providers of legal advice to asylum seekers in the UK, Refugee Migrant Justice, had planned to open offices in Wales in 2010, but instead recently ceased operating altogether, citing restrictions and delays in legal aid funding as the cause of its collapse.
Welsh Refugee Council’s Director of Policy, Communications and Advocacy, Kate Smart, said:
“The amount of state-funded legal advice available to asylum seekers is very limited: most have had one brief meeting with a lawyer before the Home Office makes a decision about their case. No wonder so many of those who are refused asylum feel that their cases have not been fully considered. Refused asylum seekers are desperate for legal help to avoid being returned home to dangerous countries such as Afghanistan.
“Asylum Justice is a wonderful, inspiring organisation and the award is richly deserved, but it is a fragile lifeline. It can’t be right that dedicated volunteers are almost wholly responsible for providing legal advice to people whose lives may be at risk if they are deported.
“More state funding for legal advice on asylum in Wales is needed to meet our responsibilities under the Refugee Convention and ensure that no-one in Wales is returned to a country where they will be persecuted.”