Updates, commentary, training and advice on immigration and asylum law

RLC to change name


Older content is locked

A great deal of time and effort goes into producing the information on Free Movement, become a member of Free Movement to get unlimited access to all articles, and much, much more


By becoming a member of Free Movement, you not only support the hard-work that goes into maintaining the website, but get access to premium features;

  • Single login for personal use
  • FREE downloads of Free Movement ebooks
  • Access to all Free Movement blog content
  • Access to all our online training materials
  • Access to our busy forums
  • Downloadable CPD certificates

RLC logoApparently the Refugee Legal Centre are to change their name to Refugee and Migrants’ Justice. I’m not quite sure about the plural there or the apostrophe, both are best guesses.

The name change suggests a serious change of direction for the organisation rather than just a broadening of its activities. RLC said they would start taking on immigration cases quite some time ago, and indeed have an ‘under construction’ Immigration Legal Centre section to their poor website. As far as I know they have not done so. There is little experience of immigration work in the organisation, so this wasn’t much of a surprise. The name change development suggests they intend normal immigration work to be a major area for them in the future. Some training and careful supervision may well be required to effect this without buggering up their first cases…

The name change also suggests a move to a more overt campaigning role. RLC have previously campaigned primarily through their small but very effective litigation team. Although now that Ravi Low Beer, Sonal Ghelani and Anne Singh have all left, it is far from certain that this high profile litigation will continue. Consultation responses and stakeholder engagement by RLC have always been sporadic and sometimes a bit esoteric – see RLC’s barmy response to clause 50 of the new Bill, for example. It proposes that the High Court opt-in is retained only for refugees, basically. Sod the rest of you. This suggests that something more than a name change will be needed to become an effective advocacy organisation for migrants as well as refugees.

RLC need to avoid falling into the trap of their rivals, IAS. RLC was created when the refugee department seceded from an organisation called UKIAS, the United Kingdom Immigrants’ Advice Service, in 1992. UKIAS collapsed and in 1994 was re-born as the Immigration Advisory Service. Having lost the asylum specialists, the organisation only undertook immigration work. That changed in the mid-1990s and IAS started to take on refugee cases as well, despite having no history, experience or speciality in dealing with the work. Arguably, that legacy continues despite recent very positive developments at the organisation. The lesson for RLC? Only a fool learns from his mistakes; a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.

Relevant articles chosen for you
Picture of Free Movement

Free Movement

The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.


6 Responses

  1. As a former Appeals Caseworker in the organisation, I would have felt very uncomfortable going to the AIT as a representative of something which sounds like an overtly campaigning organisation. There’s a danger that you lose professional credibility from immigration judges who are already biased against your clients.

    Essentially the RLC wants to diversify into other areas of law because the legal aid money for quality-driven asylum work has dried up. It’s a shame they couldn’t have gone for a less Dave Spart sounding name.

    1. I think most judges probably believe RLC is a campaigning organisation already, so I can’t see the name change worsening that. I hear different things from different people about whether IJs like or dislike hearing appeals presented by IAS and RLC case workers. One judge I’ve spoken to about this says we should remember that most appeals are presented, if at all, very badly indeed, so any competent lawyer is very welcome.

  2. Jay,

    I would echo FM’s comments in relation to the (average) quality of representation on behalf of appellants, several members of the bar who have recently been ‘made up’ to the bench have expressed to me their shock at the quality of representation on the other side, as Counsel they had not seen what we had seen in terms of un-professional / blundering representation on the part of appellants, all be it mainly in non asylum cases.

    Back in the day, I remember my PO mentor telling me, “The appellant is being represented by the RLC, expect to have a fight on your hands”.

    Many years later, my respect for the RLC in terms of their determination, professionalism and grit remains undiminished. Often I completely disagree with where they are coming from, but being against a competent & organised advocate is very much in the interests of justice.

    If the RLC are able to perform at the same level in non asylum cases, it would be of benefit to all sides. Whilst I have always found the IAS to be ‘straight shooters’ they are simply not in the same league as the RLC.

    Unlike FM, I think we should all try to learn from our mistakes, I have.

    All the best,


    1. It’s very interesting to hear these views from the other side of the fence, particularly the IAS/RLC comparison. I have to say that I of course we should all learn from our mistakes. The phrase is an unattributed quotation. I thought it was Machiavelli but cursory internet research revealed not.