The University of London’s intercollegiate Refugee Law Clinic which offers pro bono legal representation to asylum seekers making fresh claims was officially opened at a virtual ribbon cutting by vice-chancellor Professor Wendy Thomson CBE last Thursday (20 May).
Professor Thomson said the clinic, which takes on clients who are making a fresh claim based on new evidence having previously exhausted the asylum process, as 'very much representing the value and benefit that the University of London and its member institutions bring to the community.'
Legal support for fresh claims is a poorly served area of law and so was chosen as an appropriate field for clinical legal education for students from ten member institutions along with qualified lawyers working pro bono from international law firms Clifford Chance and Macfarlanes.
Clinic coordinator Susan Reardon-Smith explained: 'This is very important work which not only builds student experience and gives our qualified lawyer partners an opportunity to explore a different field of law, but provides access to justice for some of the most vulnerable members of society.'
Since beginning to accept referrals in August 2020, 55 commercial lawyers and 45 law students have worked in teams of four on 27 cases which include disputed nationality, trafficking and those where previous legal advice had been poor.
Each team and case is overseen by supervising lawyer Frances Trevena who reminded opening attendees that every client is acutely aware that they are in the last stage of the asylum process and their mental health is fragile as a result. She said: 'Of our 27 clients, one in three is suicidal and there have been two attempts.'
The opening and subsequent panel discussion, hosted by the chair of the clinic’s governing board, Professor David Cantor, 'The new plan for immigration: what now for asylum seekers?' with Louise Hooper (Garden Court Chambers), Professor Elspeth Guild (Queen Mary University of London), and Kamena Dorling (Helen Bamber Foundation) can be viewed below.