I worry we are in dark times, with an increasing obsession with the self and a lack of empathy for those in need.
I see this best played out in the media’s portrayal of the “other” or as Katie Hopkins would put it “those aggressive young men at Calais spreading like the norovirus”.
Those young men are people, trying to be human.
They are in search of safety and ultimately a life.
We do not choose where we are born, the children I see getting put on rickety boats in the med could be my child, it is only chance that separates us.
“I never chose to be here and to be an asylum seeker. But London is my home now” ASAP client
At the Asylum Support Appeals Project (ASAP) we work with people who have come to the UK in search of safety, only to find themselves living on the streets and in many cases broken by the system.
They are not allowed to work or access mainstream benefits and they cannot go home. When we see them they are appealing to the Asylum Support Tribunal against a Home Office refusal of accommodation and just £5 food vouchers a day.
Based at the Tribunal in Tower Hamlets our staff team of 4 legal advisors and over 40 volunteer solicitors and barristers give their time for free on a rota basis advising and representing over 650 destitute asylum seekers a year. They are successful in winning support for over 65% of them, ensuring they can be housed immediately after the appeal hearing.
Ella Davies is a lawyer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Derringer and volunteers for ASAP. She said: “The clients I see in my day job are multinational corporations with million dollar international disputes. The clients I meet when I volunteer for ASAP are asylum seekers who are often penniless and sleeping on the streets. They can’t afford to pay a lawyer and they don’t have access to legal aid. Without ASAP, they would have to walk into the Asylum Support Tribunal alone and represent themselves. Whenever I volunteer for ASAP, I feel that my legal training is making a tangible difference to someone’s life. Every client I meet at ASAP has a different story about why they left their home country, how they came to the UK and their experiences living here, which gives you a fresh perspective”
ASAP has been shortlisted as one of the top three winners of the London Homelessness awards: In memory of Andy Ludlow.
Our staff and volunteers work immensely hard sharing their legal expertise and passion to do the right thing. So although we may be in dark times I am reminded every day that there are still plenty of people who can think beyond themselves.
“You helped me a lot without you I might have ended up on the streets because I don’t know the law”
Hazel Williams, Director
Asylum Support Appeals Project (ASAP)