The Lawyers Against Poverty Refugee Initiative is intended to unite the wider legal community in collaborative action to support refugees overseas and in the UK.
One of the areas in which Lawyers Against Poverty is currently working is refugee rights. We use financial contributions from our network of members to support strategic interventions to assist refugees in countries of origin, transit and reception and offer other forms of assistance to refugees with the right to remain in the UK. Please see the relevant section of our website for further details. The Lawyers Against Poverty Refugee Initiative is intended to increase awareness of refugee rights issues among the wider legal community and encourage collaborative action to support refugees overseas as well as in the UK.
In 2017, 68.5 million individuals worldwide were forcibly displaced. 40 million were internally displaced, 25.4 million were refugees and 3.1 million were asylum seekers. In spite of international aid and humanitarian action, there is still a want of access to essential services for those who have been forcibly displaced, including shelter, clothes, clean water, food and hygiene facilities as well as medical care and psychosocial support. In Europe, there is an acute need to increase access to effective legal support for refugees seeking safety from civil war and violence in other countries.
What activities can I assist with?
The overarching objective of the initiative is to raise awareness of refugee rights issues among the wider community of lawyers in the UK and engage those who are interested in volunteering in a range of activities to assist refugees. The main activities currently envisaged are described below; we will be carrying out other complementary activities, such as an essay competition, and will share more details of those in due course. Please note that in respect of each activity, we will support volunteers with materials, advice and as much assistance as is desired.
REFUGEE WORKSHOPS: Lawyers Against Poverty has created a series of workshops to offer the refugee community information on their rights in the areas of employment, criminal and family law. We want to encourage volunteers to use the existing workshop materials and work alongside refugee agencies and support organisations to offer sessions for refugees living in areas across the country. Our objective is to aid refugees to understand the civil and criminal justice systems and their rights in the UK as a means of improving their access to employment opportunities and welfare more broadly.
WORK EXPERIENCE: Many refugees will arrive in the UK destitute, traumatised and without any prospect of employment in their chosen field. We want to encourage volunteers to offer work experience to refugees with the right to remain in the UK. Depending on the interests and abilities of the candidates, this could be as a lawyer or with support staff at a law firm. Our objective here is to create opportunities whereby refugees can use their skills and ultimately establish themselves in their chosen field of employment in the UK.
FUNDRAISING: We want to encourage volunteers to raise funds in aid of the initiative by holding a hunger banquet. This a dinner at which a couple of people are served an extravagant meal while everyone else has rice and water, creating an opportunity for open discussion of the economic deprivation and inequalities suffered by many refugees in the course of their lives – and for some fun! We raise money by asking everyone to bring a donation. We will offer guidance around arranging the banquet as well as contributing materials and advertising the events on our website and social media channels. Our objectives here are to raise awareness of refugee rights issues and to raise funding in order to support organisations working with refugees.
Once we raise funds by holding a hunger banquet, what will you do with them?
In October 2017, Lawyers Against Poverty made a contribution of €10,000 to support the Greek Council for Refugees (“GCR”) in the delivery of free legal and social assistance to asylum seekers on the island of Lesvos in Greece. We are also supporters of the work of European Lawyers in Lesvos (“ELIL”), whose volunteers ensure early and meaningful access to advice for asylum seekers and assistance with reunification applications under the Dublin Regulation.
We want to contribute funding to ELIL and the GCR through Oxfam in Greece in order to maximise efforts and mount a coordinated campaign to meet the acute need for effective legal assistance on the island. In addition, we will seek to support the assistance of refugees in Italy through Oxfam Italia and in other countries such as Jordan and Lebanon through Oxfam in Jordan and Oxfam in Lebanon.
Who can I contact for more information about helping with this initiative?
We believe that lawyers can make a valuable contribution to assist vulnerable and impoverished individuals. Please contact the coordinators of Lawyers Against Poverty, Emma Hammond and Louise Curd, via Emma.Hammond@lawyersagainstpoverty.org and Louise.Curd@lawyersagainstpoverty.org if you are interested in working with us on the Lawyers Against Poverty Refugee Initiative. We are creating a set of materials with everything you need to organise the refugee workshops or a hunger banquet so contact us to receive one. More information on Lawyers Against Poverty, including our areas of interest and recent activities can be found on our Instagram and Twitter.