Overview

The University of London’s Refugee Law Clinic was established in 2020 and is an innovative project providing pro bono legal advice for refugee clients. Our work provides some of the most disadvantaged communities with access to fair and equal legal representation, a basic human right which many asylum seekers in the UK struggle to find.

The clinic is supported by the Central University and by 10 of the University’s Member Institutions. It is based on a model of Clinical Legal Education for the University’s diverse student body and facilitates practical experience for students working on real cases under the supervision of a qualified expert lawyer. Delivered in partnership with two law firms, the Refugee Law Clinic also provides the opportunity for lawyers to undertake pro bono work within the clinic. 

The clinic's main legal focus is on advising and preparing fresh claims for asylum, an area identified as underserviced in the current legal landscape, and aims to complement the work of law firms and other service providers in London.

 

Watch our online launch event for the clinic here:

 

Operation of the Clinic

Institutional set-up 

The Refugee Law Clinic is structured as a direct legal service provider and is regulated by the OISC. All work will be overseen by a supervising lawyer, supported by a coordinator and advice will be issued on the clinic’s letterhead and under the clinic’s supervising lawyer’s name. 

Focus of work 

Initially, the primary focus of the clinic is on Further Submissions for Asylum ('Fresh Claims').

Submitting a ‘fresh claim for asylum’ is the process by which a declined asylum-seeker seeks to advance further representations to make a fresh claim on the basis of important new factors (such as changed circumstances, additional evidence, etc.). A successful fresh claim can lead to a grant of refugee status or humanitarian protection. A claim that is accepted can also give rise to a further in country right of appeal.

In cases where the Home Office makes a decision to refuse to treat representations made by an applicant as a fresh claim for asylum, Judicial Review is the only legal challenge available. In cases with a reasonable  prospect  for success, it is envisaged that the Refugee Law Clinic will engage in such JR work.  

Selecting cases

Because of the large demand for legal representation in the area of Fresh Claims, the Clinic will initially be operating on a referral only basis from partner organisations. We regret that we can't accept direct referrals from the public or from other organisations at this time.

 

Impact of the Clinic

This is a high-impact and innovative project with the potential to develop substantially in future. 

The Refugee Law Clinic contributes much-needed pro bono legal services to asylum seekers in London in an underserved area of asylum law and develops partnerships towards this objective.  

A mapping of the legal landscape in London conducted prior to the Clinic opening found that fresh claims are the area of greatest legal need for asylum seekers in London. In theory, Legal Aid may be available for fresh claims but in practice few firms are willing to take on these cases. In this sector, the data show that the number of providers offering legal aid or not-for-profit representation has more than halved over the last decade. In the mapping (and subsequently), direct service providers have consistently confirmed that A-RE asylum seekers looking to submit fresh claims have particular difficulties in accessing legal services, leaving large numbers without representation.

The clinic has also provided advice to referring agencies on fresh claims and on other referral pathways for particular cases, working towards the aim of becoming a centre of excellence in the field of fresh claims.

Clinical Legal Education programmes are highly beneficial and formative for law students, developing experience and interest in social justice work. In drawing in commercial lawyers from our partnering law firms, the Clinic also seeks to build broader interest in refugee and asylum law through this pro bono work, and to support these lawyers to develop a secondary specialisation. Law clinics also contribute to the legal landscape through test cases, research and reflection on law practice and reform.

 

Project Partners

The UoL Refugee Law Clinic is an inter-collegiate project of the University of London and at this stage has committed involvement from ten of the University’s Member Institutions, who will each be sending students to volunteer in the clinic: 

  • Birkbeck 
  • City, University of London 
  • Goldsmiths 
  • Kings College London 
  • London Business School
  • London School of Economics (LSE) 
  • Queen Mary, University of London  
  • Royal Holloway 
  • School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) 
  • University College London (UCL)

The project has also partnered with two commercial law firms who will be sending volunteer lawyers to engage in the Clinic:

  • Clifford Chance LLP
  • Macfarlanes LLP

The clinic also receives financial support from Migration Thames Valley's Migration Foundation and another charitable trust. We also receive support in training materials from HJT Training, and broader support from an Expert Panel, and the clinic's Governing Board.

 

Further Information

For further information, please contact Frances Trevena, Supervising Lawyer, at frances.trevena@sas.ac.uk, or Susan Reardon-Smith, Clinic Coordinator, at susan.reardon-smith@london.ac.uk. Until January 2022 Vanessa Delgado is undertaking maternity cover as the Supervising Lawyer, and can be contacted at vanessa.delgado@london.ac.uk.