RLS UK ACTIVITIES
RLS vision statement:
Refugee Legal Support works in solidarity with people who migrate. We advance safe migration through legal support, casework, strategic litigation, outreach, training and partnerships. We advocate for the promotion and protection of people’s rights throughout the migration process.
• We recognise that immigration systems are weighted against those forced to migrate and we challenge hostile policy in an effort to level the playing field
• We stand opposed to all forms of violence against people compelled to migrate, including those who are undocumented.
• We support the global movement that fights entrenched inequalities, racism and other forms of discrimination that force people to migrate.
• We strive to develop inclusive, sustainable and regenerative ways of working and facilitate the inclusion of those with lived migration experience.
RLS is based in and is managed by its trustees located in the UK. RLS start-up funding in 2017 was provided by ILPA, the UK Immigration Law Practitioners Association, and we continue to have the support of the UK immigration legal sector. Currently all funding for RLS activities is raised within the UK. Both in Athens and the UK, lawyers and others volunteering and providing services to RLS are predominantly UK residents. In addition, key elements of the RLS vision are delivered in the UK.
All fundraising is carried out by the RLS Exec fundraising working group within the UK. Recently supported by freelance fundraising experts, a Strategic Plan and a Fundraising Strategy are now in place.
RLS wins Pro Bono Lexis Nexis award London March 2018.
Having delivered services to refugees in Athens for over 3 years, RLS has established itself as the go-to organisation within the UK refugee law community for up-to-date information and guidance on cases containing Greek elements, with enquiries being received regularly from individual UK based lawyers and also organisations in the UK who work with refugees.
RLS exec members who are lawyers in the UK provide some direct casework in challenges to UK Home Office decisions for individual located in Greece or faced with a forced return to Greece
The RLS UK lawyer referral network deals with regular requests from organisations working with refugees in in Greece and Northern France for their clients who need representation in either seeking to reach the UK via family reunion provisions or in challenging negative Home Office decisions. Such requests are dealt with in accordance with the RLS referrals policy and networks so as to ensure that the best interests of refugees are protected and the most appropriate good quality representation accessed - please email RLSUnitedkingdom@gmail.com if you need assistance in locating a UK representative or if you have general queries relating to representation in the UK or the funding of such representation.
In March 2019 the Returns to Greece Pack was produced to assist lawyers in the both the UK and other European countries involved in cases where a forced return to Greece was proposed. The Pack was updated in December 2019 and has been distributed on request to lawyers in the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and France – please email RLSUnitedkingdom@gmail.com if you would like to receive the current pack or if you have any casework queries general or client specific and we will do what we can to assist.
RLS has developed a comprehensive online training package for non-expert lawyers who wish to increase the capacity of organisations representing refugees in Greece where there is acute shortage of legal advice available which inhibits refugees in achieving safety and a permanent solution. Delivered via the HJT online training platform the materials are supplemented by face to face trainings and updates – please email RLSUnitedkingdom@gmail.com if you would like to discuss access to this training package or have queries around volunteering as a lawyer in Greece.
RLS is one of two NGO partners of the Greek Collaborative, a consortium of commercial law firms providing 2-3 pro bono lawyers each week to volunteer with ELIL, an NGO representing refugees in the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesvos. RLS provide the pro bono lawyers with approximately 20 hours online training and a face-to-face training sessions delivered in London and as well as to remote attendees, ensuring that they can add value during their volunteering time in Greece
RLS attended the 2020 Refugee Summit in London co-delivering training with Safe Passage on the Impact of Brexit on Refugee Family Reunification to the UK.
With refugee boat arrivals to the UK rising, RLS exec members in the UK have been working to formalise existing partnerships with volunteers and organisations working with refugees in Northern France. This builds on relationships established during an RLS visit to Northern France in 2019 during which discussions with actors on the ground identified their needs for UK immigration law expertise, including trainings and updates, and what support RLS could most effectively provide.
From January 2019 RLS has focussed media and advocacy efforts on awareness raising around the urgent issues raised by Brexit for refugees in Europe hoping to be reunified with family members in the UK.
With other UK-based organisations active in the sector RLS has contributed to and co-signed letters to UK and European governments and organisations - a comprehensive list can be found here: https://www.refugeelegalsupport.org/news
RLS contributes to UK mainstream and sector media outputs on matters that relate to particularly refugees in Greece - such input supporting organisations involved in strategic litigation efforts.
In April / May 2020 RLS supported Safe Passage in facilitating questions in the House of Lords on the issue of transfers from the UK of vulnerable refugees contained in Greek Island camps and also contributed casework stats to a proposed strategic litigation challenge.
Oversight of Greek Operations
The management of RLS Athens based activities and the supervision of the team in Athens is carried out remotely from the UK.
Family Reunion From Europe (FRFE) Project
Commencing 1 February 2021, the FRFE Project is a new project that RLS will deliver in collaboration with five leading commercial law firms. The project aims at utilising pro bono capacity to help with family reunion work for applicants in Greece with family members in the UK following the Dublin Regulations coming to an end in December 2020. The work of the project will also feed into strategic efforts by RLS and others in the sector to influence policy and decision making around replacements for the Dublin regime post-Brexit. The project will likely run for one year only, although there is possibility of extension.
It is envisaged that in practice the FRFE Project will focus on securing Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) for family reunion cases, preparing comprehensive referral packages to maximise the prospect of successful referral to legal aid providers. Exceptionally, if following a grant of ECF it is not possible to place cases with a legal aid provider, firm pro bono lawyers may undertake the entry clearance applications supervised by the Project Casework Supervisor.
RLS is also happy to welcome Efthymia Stathopoulou and Harry Harris to the team. Efi holds an LLB from the Athens Law School and has worked with RLS in Athens - she is now based in London and will be the new Project Coordinator. She speaks Greek, English, French and a bit of German. Harry previously worked at Bindmans LLP and SOAS University. She has been based in Athens since 2019, providing legal support for asylum seekers and completing the BPTC-LLM before joining RLS to supervise FRFE project casework.
Contact - firstname.lastname@example.org