Getting good legal advice has always been important to asylum seekers and immigrants but recently it has become much more difficult because of cut backs in the legal aid system. There is now only one solicitor in Portsmouth taking such cases, there is one in Southampton and one in Brighton. Meanwhile the Haslar Immigration Removal Centre is expanding from holding 160 to holding 200 men. Sixty per cent of our clients are represented by solicitors from out of our region who are therefore contractually limited in what they can do.
In response to this Friends Without Borders has started a new project – Access to Justice - and opened a new office at All Saints. Since we opened the project (very quietly) 5 months ago it has had 21 cases, 14 of which are still active. All the personnel are currently volunteers who between them have 20 years of experience in the field. We take on, and give advice about, a range of immigration cases, not just bail. It is our ambition to employ a paid part time programme manager to assist with this side of our work. They are all complex and difficult cases where we feel that common humanity is more important than the niceties of bureaucracy or the whims of politicians.
Our new project, of course, costs money for extra office rent and running and, if we can afford it, for a paid staff member. We’re looking for £15,000 by 31st December this year and already have generous donors who have offered top up by 50% any donations made before then*. So anybody giving £100 before the 31st December will see it increased to £150. If they gift aid it as well it will be worth £170 to Friends Without Borders. Remember this offer is only till 31st December!
We believe that good quality legal advice is essential for justice and particularly important for people who may not be very articulate or speak very good English and yet who may be at real and terrible risk if their claims fail. Please help us to help them. Please send cheques to me, Michael Woolley at: Friends Without Borders, All Saints Centre, Commercial Road, Portsmouth PO1 4BT. If you pay UK income tax please send the attached Gift Aid form with your donation. Or you can pay on-line (https://www.justgiving.com/FriendsWithoutBorders) and simply tick the gift aid box.
*To be precise they have offered £5000 to top up donations (up to a maximum of £10,000) by 50%.