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The end for RMJ?


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Refugee and Migrant Justice, formerly known as the Refugee Legal Centre, has gone into administration today. As a lawyer specialising in immigration and family work I have no idea what this means in commercial terms and whether it is now too late to save the organisation. What I do know is that this is a very sad day for refugees and asylum seekers and it could be a disaster in terms of legal aid coverage for some of the most vulnerable and maligned individuals in the UK.

There are what might in some cases be inappropriately be termed Guilty Men no longer employed by the Legal Services Commission who are responsible for changing the funding payment rules — the date of payment, not the amount or fact of payment — that have caused fundamental survival issues right across the not-for-profit sector. This was done to massage the accounts and improve the cash flow of the Legal Services Commission, not for any other reason. They should be ashamed of what they have done, supposedly in the name of access to justice. Instead, some ‘factory firms’ are making significant profits by giving poor qualify representations and getting away with doing as little as possible (and often less than that) on cases for which they are paid a fixed fee.

My thoughts are also with the hugely committed and skilled staff at RMJ.

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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.


9 Responses

  1. from the admin. doc:

    “The legal representation of more than 10,000 vulnerable asylum seekers and victims of trafficking, including nearly 900 separated children, is now at risk. RMJ also represents over 10 per cent of the detention population and many foreign national prisoners.”

  2. The powers that be have tried to starve failed asylum seekers and others with no status, into leaving. They have withdrawn all but emergency medical services and now they are trying to stop them from getting the legal help they need.

    Not sure about anyone else, but I’m feeling pretty depressed about the treatment of our clients by the Government/s.

  3. Indeed, a very regrettable development. I hope the talents of their hardworking staff are not going to go to waste.

  4. As a former PO I’m sorry to see this happen. RMJ Reps were often the most pleasant to deal with; professional, efficient and effective.

    If this was done as a cost saving measure I do wonder if it will work. As I understand it, RMJ reps were paid considerably less than Counsel who are often paid large fees. Particularly relevant when one considers that RMJ reps did at least as good a job, if not better.

    I fear this is not in the interests of anyone except certain firms who are going to mop up even more money and not do as effective a job as the RMJ and at a cost to the taxpayer and the asylum seeker.

  5. I agree with Former PO about representation. Certainly some of the best trained, courteous, and professional representatives I have come across. My thoughts are very much with the staff who have shown tremendous dedication in putting cases forward to both UKBA and the appellate authorities.

    I’m not sure the entire blame can be laid at any particular place just yet. However, it does seem extremely distasteful that a charity should be forced to do business with a public sector body such as the LSC, on the terms the RMJ have had to accept. Shame on all concerned!!!

    Good luck to all those affected.

  6. So is this the reason for the delay in announcing the LSC contracts? And what will happen to all RMJ’s new matter starts and files now, will they be redistributed elsewhere? That’s ok for some firms, but others might not be able to take on an extra 50 new files a year or whatever.

  7. The RMJ have over the years automated their processes to a level of efficiency which far exceeds that of most legal practices. As an IT consultant who has visited many IT centres belonging to law firms, I can say that the IT department of RMJ is one of the most efficient IT centres of any legal establishment. They have had to adapt to the wierd and wonderful reporting requirements of the LSC and have achieved this with great efficiency.
    When the RMJ goes, so does all the work-in- progress electronic records of some 17,000 asylum seekers. The asylum seekers will have to seek new representation without the accurate electronic records held by the RMJ – what a huge waste of public money.