It’s Monday morning. I’ve ensured the kids have safely gone to school then headed for physiotherapy, arriving at work at 9:30am. This article is part of The (young legal aid) life series – you can read the other articles here
Before I’ve taken my coat off my phone is ringing. It’s Cumbria Social Services calling about one of my teenage Vietnamese clients — he is an asylum seeker. They will be issuing care proceedings and want to know if we can deal with this at our firm. Luckily we can and I ask her to update me if she needs a referral to the family department.
I confirm we are still waiting for a decision in his case. All evidence has been submitted, his asylum interview is complete and further representations are in. At this point we can only wait for a decision, which, in this case, will take longer than usual because the teen is seen as a potential victim of trafficking. He has waited three months, which, for a minor, is a long time.
I get onto the case management system and draft a letter to the Home Office, referring them to their own guidance on making decisions on minors’ asylum claims which makes it clear these claims should be dealt with as quickly as possible.
I whizz through my emails picking out the ones that are most urgent.
I receive a call from a client whose appeal against his refusal was dismissed following an initial decision in 2009, after failings on the part of the Home Office, adjourned hearings and what the judge described as ‘historic injustices’. We have submitted an application for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal based on our contention that the decision includes errors of law. Our client is fed up and wants reassurance. I confirm we have found potential grounds, that the application has been submitted in time and a letter explaining this is on its way to him.
My 10am client arrives late, but because the 11:30am client has cancelled we will manage to fit in his appointment. His asylum claim has been refused and we have lodged his appeal. We read through the Reasons for Refusal letter and I advise him on next steps and merits.
At 1pm I grab a coffee from the shop next door then eat my sandwich at my desk while updating the Twitter and Facebook feeds of the Law Centre that I’m on the board of. Today I’m asking for sponsorship for the Liverpool Legal Walk.
By 1:15pm I’m back to work. It’s one of those days when you can’t stay on a task for long before there is another email, call or client.
At 2pm my last client of the day attends. She is an appeal client whose file I have taken over. She is from an African country where there is no relevant Country Guidance case law and no Home Office Policy Instruction. It means researching the country and the situation and deciding whether we can argue that the client’s situation would present a risk to her if returned.
She arrives with her young daughter, whom she feeds during the appointment and to whom we chatter and amuse in between talking.
I have been asked by the Home office to provide the client with the decision as she has been referred for safeguarding. I break the news that her claim has been refused. Her face crumples in tears. The baby in the pram beside her knows enough to place her tiny hand upon her mum’s knee.
She tells me her baby died in Africa — it was cot death — her claim stems from this one incident and its repercussions.
I go through the refusal letter paragraph by paragraph. So many of the points raised by the decision maker are wrong or misinterpreted. I have to explain to my client that the Home Office do not believe that she ever had a baby or that it died. I pause knowing what a blow that must be. She cries again.
After offering tissues we discuss the ways in which she can prove her baby’s existence. She writes a list for herself of people to speak to and contact information to provide to me.
The appointment is upsetting. I know she will go home feeling sad and hopeless. I explain that I will research the country evidence and we will work to prove that this situation is not incredible in her country, that sufficient protection would not be available and that she could not safely internally relocate, especially with her new baby.
As she gets up to leave her head is down, her shoulders drooped, I tell her we will do our best. She thanks me.
I feel exhausted after the appointment. I have a meeting to go to and there is still a lot to do. I draft memos for appointments, finish my File Notes for the appeal clients, attach all the emails I’ve sent to the correct files in my case management system and at 6pm I leave.
At 6:30pm I meet the Young Legal Aid Lawyers’ Liverpool committee to discuss upcoming events. I arrive home before 8pm and am mum again.