Many readers will know that I was helping with the new Ukraine Advice Project for much of March. The UAP (as we inevitably refer to it amongst ourselves) is really a mass mobilisation of UK immigration lawyers to give pro bono advice directly to people fleeing the war in Ukraine and wanting to come legally to the UK. The organisers were just a conduit to 500+ volunteer barristers, solicitors and OISC advisers who have been giving their time with remarkable generosity. We have yet to properly thank everybody who assisted behind the scenes with the project in those frantic early days after the invasion, but Colin effectively seconded me from Free Movement for quite a while so my special thanks go to him.
The project has since moved on to a new phase with the completely wonderful DLA Piper pro bono team taking on the day-to-day operations. Lawyers from DLA Piper, along with Hogan Lovells and Eversheds Sutherland, have also been volunteering to provide information to those writing in about asylum, visas etc. They are largely corporate lawyers who we have trained up on the Ukraine visa schemes etc. This means that everyone who writes in for advice gets some basic information in a timely fashion and we refer only the more difficult cases to a volunteer immigration specialist.
Obviously, in an ideal world, everyone fielding enquiries would be an immigration specialist, but this set-up both helps meet demand — enquiries fell in April but have since ticked up again — and means the project is on a sustainable footing. Quite naturally, the initial flurry of voluntary support from the hard-pressed immigration sector has fallen away as the weeks have gone by and DLA Piper tell me that of the 500 or so immigration specialists, volunteer numbers are now in the high dozens rather than hundreds. We thank everyone for their contribution to date, large and small.
A couple of points arise from the fact that we are able to continue the project into the medium term. First of all, if you are an immigration lawyer who has volunteered in the past, please feel free to pitch in again now or in future even if it has been ages since you last advised. It is of course not feasible for most immigration practitioners to be constantly taking pro bono cases. But the fact that DLA Piper now have the project running smoothly rather than on an emergency footing means it will be around for a while and will continue to need support indefinitely (quite how long it will run we cannot say at this point). So even if you don’t have capacity until, let’s say, November — that’s fine, come back and ask for a case then!
Second, if you run a charity, law centre, Citizens Advice branch etc, please feel free to signpost to the Ukraine Advice Project. It is free and it is there. All you need to do is pop a link to the UAP website on your own site or other referral materials: advice-ukraine.co.uk. The website has information on how to request advice, as well as an overview of visas etc, in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish.