The University of Derby’s Student Legal Advice Centre has launched a new Immigration Family Reunion Clinic to provide advice and assistance to refugees.
The Centre, which was set up in 2019, offers a pro bono service where law students, under the supervision of qualified legal professionals, provide advice and assistance to the community on a range of issues.
Initially, the Centre focused on the provision of family law advice and assistance. Now, in partnership with the British Red Cross and Paragon Law, a Nottingham–based firm that specialises in immigration matters, it is expanding its work, through the launch of the Clinic, to assist refugees in Derby who want to make an application to bring their families to the UK.
The Clinic will offer free help and support to refugees in the community who may not have the funds to seek legal help and whose cases would not be covered by general legal aid. Students who volunteer will gain real-world learning experience by meeting with, and taking instructions from, clients prior to Paragon Law assessing whether they would benefit from specialist legal advice, as well as helping clients with applications for ‘Exceptional Case Funding’, a form of legal aid, and filling in applications on their behalf.
Kaye Howells, Senior Lecturer in Law and Centre Lead at the University of Derby, said: “The University’s Law School is proud to be partnering with the British Red Cross and Paragon Law to enable the provision of this much–needed service. The launch of the Immigration Family Reunion Clinic would not be possible without such collaboration. I know I speak on behalf of our student volunteers when I say how proud we are to be delivering this service to the public.”
Sophie Spencer, a third-year Law student at Derby who has volunteered at the Centre, said: “I have loved working in the Student Legal Advice Centre. Not only has it helped me to develop practical legal skills, but it has also helped to improve my emotional intelligence due to dealing with sensitive issues.
“It is wonderful to know that we can help real clients and provide assistance that they would otherwise not have access to.”
Athina Bilgic, Refugee Support Service Manager at the British Red Cross in Derby, added: “The British Red Cross Refugee Support team in Derby is very pleased to work with the University of Derby and Paragon Law to provide this vital service to the refugee community in our city.
“The Clinic is being established because there is no legal aid for family reunion applicants, yet we see a high need for this work in our area. Refugees have spent years separated from their loved ones, so we are delighted that it will now be possible for our service users to start the process of bringing their families to the UK.”
Deirdre Sheahan, Director at Paragon Law, added: “Paragon Law is thrilled to be supporting the Immigration Family Reunion Clinic. Representing refugees is an essential part of the work we do at Paragon Law.
“It is extremely important to us that those in need receive the best representation possible. Supporting the University’s students to identify those eligible for family reunion and securing them legal representation is part of our commitment to enhancing refugee and human rights protection in the UK.”
People can book an appointment at the Clinic by emailing the Student Legal Advice Centre or through the British Red Cross in Derby, in which case the centre will contact the person seeking assistance.
The Clinic currently runs fortnightly on a Wednesday (the next session will be on February 10) between 1pm and 5pm. In line with current coronavirus guidelines, it is being run virtually.