10,000 asylum seekers at risk as charity folds

By Ian Dunt

The legal representation of over 10,000 asylum seekers is under threat after a legal charity was forced into administration today.

Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ) signed papers to place the charity into administration as a result of a cash flow problem created by late payment of legal aid by the Legal Services Commission.

The problem, which relates not to income but to the timing of payments from legal aid work, was brought to the government’s attention earlier in the month through an open letter from legal experts and activists, but no actions appears to have been forthcoming.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti and film director Ken Loach called on the government to save the charity along with major charities, such as Amnesty International, Mind and Barnardo’s.

In an open letter to the justice and home secretaries they warned “it would be a tragedy if RMJ were allowed to go under”.

Paul Gray, chair of RMJ, said: “It is with great sadness that RMJ’s trustees took the decision to put RMJ into administration. It is a brilliant charity which has a justifiably high reputation for the quality of support it gives and we are very concerned about the position of our 10,000 clients, and of our dedicated and highly professional staff.”

“This situation is caused by late payment of legal aid by up to two years, not inefficiency or even lack of income: RMJ staff have performed a minor miracle in cutting costs to live with a fall in income per client of over 40%.

“Late payment has an unequal impact on charities because they cannot get bank loans to finance the cash gap.

“In the absence of any last minute intervention by the government the priority now is to ensure maximum protection of our clients, who include many of the most vulnerable people in our country.”