UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, protects and assists people fleeing conflict or persecution. Established in 1951, it now has a staff of more than 8,000 working in 126 countries. At UNHRC Tracks, they are running photography workshops entitled ‘Do You See What I See?’ with Syrian refugees. Equipped with digital cameras and neverending energy, the children and young people have been producing images that reveal the fears and hopes, loss and longing of their lives in exile. 3.2 million Syrian refugees have fled to neighbouring countries and North Africa and 795,000 people have benefited from shelter assistance in camp and non‐camp settings in 2014. All their stories are featured online on the UNHRC Tracks website.
Watch the project’s trailer below.
- Do you have a story you would like to tell through photography, radio, music or comic strips?
- Would you like to run a media or arts project in your own community or organisation?
Yes? On 28 November at Paddington Arts, participate in a free day of talks and practical workshops exploring how to use multimedia and the arts to tell migrant stories.
Our Journey: Exploring migrant stories through multimedia and the arts, is a conference by My Journey and BEAMS and hosted by the participatory photography organisation PhotoVoice.
The day is free and travel costs inside London can be refunded. There will also be a complimentary lunch by the migrant women’s catering group Chickpea Sisters, and drinks/ finger food in the evening.
Spaces are limited so if you would like to come, book now on Eventbrite.
Please note the morning talks are aimed at people who would like to run their own workshops or project, while the afternoon workshops are for everyone.
The conference will be followed by a free exhibition 29-30 November. Visit www.my-journey.org.uk for more information.
They make up 40% of the population of London, and everyone seems to be talking about them. But what do the capital’s migrants say about themselves?
My Journey showcases the work of London migrants from all over the world, who use a range of media to tell their personal stories, including experiences of immigration detention and homelessness, the triumph of settling in, and candid observations about London life.
Visitors are invited to browse comic strips, listen to audio stories, watch short films and view medium format, tintype and digital photographs produced by the group.
The exhibition coincides with the London premier of Stowaway by the critically acclaimed Analogue Theatre on Thursday 9th and Friday 10th October, which tells the story of a man from India who finds himself far from home and adrift from everything he knows.
Follow them on Twitter @migrantsmrc #myjourney for updates.
Originally blogged here: Detention Inquiry, by The Detention Forum.
‘Unauthorised, discriminatory and impossible to justify’ – the Divisional Court gives judgment on the Lord Chancellor’s civil legal aid residence test
Today (July 15th) a specially convened three-judge Divisional Court handed down judgement on the Lord Chancellor’s decision to radically alter civil legal aid eligibility rules by introducing a ‘residence test’. The test would withhold legal aid from recent, lawful migrants and irregular migrants including children born here many years ago. British nationals born and living abroad would fail the test, as would those unable to prove past residence including women fleeing domestic violence, pre-school age children and the homeless. Despite the Parliamentary Joint Committees on Statutory Instruments and Human Rights both expressing concerns over its legality, the controversial test was approved by the House of Commons last week. 32 leading NGOs have since issued a joint briefing calling on the House of Lords to reject the test using a ‘fatal motion’ on 21 July.
In today’s 40-page unanimous judgement, the Court finds that the test is unlawful, that the Lord Chancellor exceeded his statutory powers when devising it and that it would discriminate against ‘foreigners’ without justification.
The test case was brought on behalf of the Public Law Project, a small legal charity that promotes access to justice. It instructed solicitors John Halford and Stephen Grosz at Bindmans LLP and barristers Michael Fordham QC, Ben Jaffey, Naina Patel and Alison Pickup.
Jo Hickman of the Public Law Project said today:
“We are heartened by this judgment, which embodies and articulates the finest traditions of our justice system and provides a timely illustration of the importance of judicial review as a check on unlawful executive action.”
John Halford of Bindmans said today:
“Using powers that were never his to exercise, the Lord Chancellor has attempted to refashion the legal aid scheme into an instrument of discrimination so that many of the cases Parliament itself identified as most worthy of support could never be taken. The Court’s judgement on that attempt is emphatic: it is simply unacceptable in a country where all are equal in the eyes of the law. Legal aid is, and must remain, the means to safeguard equality in our Courts, regardless of people’s origins, nationality or place of residence.”
Giving the Court’s lead judgment, Lord Justice Moses said at paragraphs 45 and 50:
“The Lord Chancellor now asserts a power to introduce secondary legislation which excludes, from those adjudged to have the highest priority need, those whose need is just as great, but whose connection with the United Kingdom is weaker.. the instrument is ultra vires and unlawful. I conclude that LASPO does not permit such a criterion to be introduced by secondary legislation. It extends the scope and purpose of the statute and is, accordingly, outwith the power conferred ….”
adding at paragraph 60:
“It is and was beyond question that the introduction of such a test was discriminatory. Indeed, that is its declared purpose.”
At paragraphs 82 and 83 the Court held:
“Within the system provided in Schedule 1 of LASPO, the United Kingdom is not permitted to discriminate against non-residents on the grounds that to do so might save costs…Certainly it is not possible to justify such discrimination in an area where all are equally subject to the law, resident or not, and equally entitled to its protection, resident or not. In my judgement, a residence test cannot be justified in relation to the enforcement of domestic law or the protection afforded by domestic law, which is applicable to all equally, provided they are within its jurisdiction. In the context of a discriminatory provision relating to legal assistance, invoking public confidence amounts to little more than reliance on public prejudice.”
At paragraphs 27, 29, 30 and 31, the judgement highlights examples from the hundreds of pages of evidence filed in the case giving real-life examples of people who would be denied legal aid in future:
“It is not difficult to identify those on whom the application of the residence test would have a direct impact. Families of recently arrived children with special educational needs, whose access to education depends on proper provision being made to meet their additional needs, will be unable to access legal help and advice…individuals who lack mental capacity and are protected persons for litigation purposes, and therefore unable to litigate without a litigation friend, but who cannot meet the residence test, will be unable to access legal advice and representation.[for example] ‘P’ a severely learning disabled adult, who had been ‘forced to live in a dog kennel outside the house, had been beaten regularly by his brother and mother, and starved over an extensive period of time’…the residence test will exclude from access to legal aid individuals resident abroad who have been subject to serious abuses at the hands of UK forces.”
Notes for editors:
The Public Law Project (PLP) is an independent, national legal charity which aims to improve access to justice for those whose access is restricted by poverty, discrimination or other similar barriers. Bindmans is one of the UK’s leading solicitors’ firms specialising in judicial review, human rights and civil liberties.
The Government’s intention had been to introduce the residence test through secondary legislation, the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Amendment of Schedule 1) Order 2014. The House of Commons voted to approve the draft order last week. The Lords vote is scheduled for 21 July 2014. It is not known whether the draft regulations will be withdrawn before then.
The impact of the residence test is discussed in a briefing produced by the Public Law Project and Bindmans for the Lords debate:
The briefing is supported by 32 leading NGOswhich are calling for the Lords to vote against the residence test regulations in a ‘fatal motion’. They are the Public Law Project, Refuge, Liberty, Justice, Just For Kids Law, Redress, Corum Children’s Legal Centre, Children’s Rights Alliance For England, Child Poverty Action Group, Reprieve, Prisoners Advice Service, Redress, Shelter, The AIRE Centre, Housing Law Practitioners’ Association, Legal Action Group, The Howard League For Penal Reform, Disability Law Service, Just Rights, Southall Black Sisters, Immigration Law Practitioners Association, ECPAT UK, INQUEST, Helen Bamber Foundation, Mind, Asylum Support Appeals Project, Law Centres Federation, Medical Justice, Disability Law Service,Legal Aid Practitioners’ Group, Refugee Counciland Rights Watch UK.
Civil legal aid was first introduced through the Legal Advice and Assistance Act 1949. Since then, its availability has always depended on three things: the type of case must be prioritised in the legal aid scheme; it must be strong and important enough to justify public money being spent on it; and the financial resources of the person involved must be so limited that it would be impossible for them to pay for a lawyer themselves. These features have lasted 65 years.
If implemented, the residence test will fundamentally change all this. For identical, equally strong and important cases, all of which are prioritised for funding in the LASPO scheme, some people will receive legal aid whereas others will receive no help at all. The only difference will be ‘residence’ status i.e. whether those who need legal aid are physically here and can prove they have lived here lawfully for more than 12 months. Who will be excluded is obvious: they will be recent migrants and their children, irregular migrants and their children (including those born in the UK many years ago) and those who cannot prove where they have been living for practical reasons e.g. domestic violence victims who have been driven out of their homes, homeless people and pre-school age children.
The Government claims there is a ‘safety net’ in the form of section 10 LASPO ‘exceptional funding’. But this is currently granted in less than 2% of non-inquest cases and then only after weeks of debate between the Legal Aid Agency and applicants’ lawyers about whether human rights will be breached if it is withheld. Only one person has ever been granted exceptional funding without a lawyer’s help, yet lawyers’ time in making applications for those who fail the residence test will not be funded.
In any event, the Government does not claim exceptional funding will meet the need created by the residence test; it accepts that people with strong, high priority cases who cannot afford to pursue them will be left without advice and representation. They will inevitably include vulnerable children, mentally incapacitated adults, along with victims of abuse, trafficking and other crimes because, although some types of case brought by these people are exempted, many are not.
Original text by Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association.