A non-profit organisation committed to securing justice for refugees and other migrants in the UK says the new government has forced it into administration. Refugee and Migrant Justice has 336 staff and 13 offices in England. It claims the government owes it £2m for work it was contracted to do.
The Guardian reports that as a result of changes to legal aid, immigration law firms are only paid when a case ends. Many immigration cases can last for years, however, and Refugee and Migrant Justice says it has no means to pay its overheads while it waits for legal aid payments to come through.
The charity had 13,000 migrants and refugees, plus their children, on its books. This includes 900 sex slaves trafficked against their will by organised crime syndicates.
Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has described the collapse of Refugee and Migrant Justice as an "unfortunate situation", but said there are many immigration firms around capable of picking up the charity's caseload.
He also denied that delayed legal aid payments had caused the collapse. "It's not a question of late payments," he said. "Refugee and Migrant Justice was paid what was due, but they did not make the efficiency saving that other providers did.
"You can't suddenly start diverting huge sums of money out of the legal aid budget to bail out one of the voluntary bodies which has got itself into a financial mess because it has not made the same adjustments to the system that everybody else succeeded in doing."
Simon Hughes MP disagrees, however, and said the charity had done everything it could to cut its costs. Both the Law Society and immigration lawyers have described the new payment system as "unsustainable," he added.
This view was echoed by July Bishop, director of the Law Centres Federation: "Far from saving money, allowing an organisation like the Refugee and Migrant Justice to decline will cost the government more money because they are losing a quality service provider."
Campaign to save the charity launched
A consortium of charitable trusts and city law firms, supported by Simon Hughes, are putting together a proposal to government to save Refugee and Migrant Justice. The proposal asks the Government to at least pay the money that it would have to pay anyway on insolvency on the understanding that this will be matched with up to £1m by way of grants, secured loans and donations to meet cash needs to finance work in progress.
To make a pledge, or for further information, please telephone Kathleen Commons on 07872 161 271 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.