We are currently undertaking pro-bono partnerships with two law firms, who offer their time to bolster grass-roots legal advice services. Refugee Action can act as a bridge between international law firms and local legal advice organisations. We’ve seen this really makes a difference, helping vulnerable migrants get access to justice.
Refugee Action, Clifford Chance, the Asylum Research Centre (ARC) Foundation and Asylos are working together to increase understanding of and access to Country of Origin Information (COI) reports. This will enable asylum seekers to gain vital evidence for their cases by supporting overstretched voluntary sector legal advice organisations with specialist COI knowledge and reports that would otherwise be complex, challenging and time-consuming to create.
Harnessing the support of international law firm, Clifford Chance, whose lawyers work on a pro bono basis to produce COI reports, has enabled Refugee Action to develop a collaborative project through their Manchester office over the past 5 years. This tried and tested model of a referral system for pro bono reports has now been shared with other grassroots NGOs through the Yorkshire and Humberside Community of Practice; ultimately enabling more asylum seekers to use the reports to substantiate the validity of their cases.
One advice caseworker from the Yorks and Humber Community of Practice said that the increased impact of this project had been significant:
'We would like to extend our gratitude for the bespoke report you provided. It was really very effective to support [the] client's case and gave a very good prospect of success. It also made a difference for the client's eligibility for Legal Aid. The service provided was excellent, the time taken for the report was efficient and the communication level was professional. Good Job.' - Yorks and Humber caseworker
Donna McCafferey from Refugee Action Manchester who was instrumental in beginning the project confirms that:
'Clifford Chance is an amazing resource that really helps to back up what our clients are saying. I’m so grateful that we have them because this type of work would just not be possible within the scope of the Increasing Asylum Justice project.' - Donna
As part of the partnership, ARC Foundation and Asylos play a crucial role in bolstering the skills and knowledge of the legal advice organisations utilising the reports. In addition to their highly-respected training programme, bespoke courses in ‘Researching and Using Country of Origin Information’ and ‘Child-Focused COI’ have been provided to the Frontline Immigration Advice Project (FIAP) partners. For instance, their latest course in April 2021 was fully booked with over 57 advisors. This, combined with their informative training handbook: Country of Origin Information (COI): Evidencing asylum claims in the UK, will enable advice workers to develop good practice in their use of the reports, ultimately strengthening asylum seekers’ access to quality advice and, ultimately, justice.