Ukraine Advice Project UK receives overwhelming support from the legal profession
Wouldn’t it be good if there was a group of immigration lawyers meeting up this weekend,’ said John Vassiliou on a Friday evening to a group of immigration lawyer friends. We had been discussing the need for an urgent UK immigration law response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. By Monday 28 February, with the support of the Free Movement website
, we launched the Ukraine Advice Project
to provide free immigration legal advice. Initially, we thought we could answer questions ourselves. Hundreds of enquiries poured in:
I am currently in England on a Tier 5 (seasonal worker) visa. But the contract with the farm has already expired and I do not have work. I have a son left in Ukraine, he is 16 years old, he lives with his father. Due to the martial law his father is taken to the army, my son can’t stay there alone.
I am trying to bring my mom to the UK. She is currently in Ukraine and her town is being bombarded regularly. She is disabled. She is unable to care for herself during the war. There is no medication for her and the supermarkets are empty so cannot buy food. I am the only child and she doesn’t have any other family besides me.
We began to sign up volunteer lawyers offering legal and admin support. All legal volunteers had to have their own professional accreditation, and we sent them enquiries, supporting them with a legal factsheet and Google group. The response from the profession has been awe-inspiring. The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association encouraged people to volunteer, the Faculty of Scottish Advocates and the Bar Standards Board issued direct access exemptions so advocates and barristers can volunteer, and the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner published a policy expressly confirming that OISC advisers can volunteer.
On 14 March, the co-ordination of enquiries was taken on pro bono by law firm DLA Piper. By that time, we had signed up 430 immigration lawyer volunteers. We had matched 740 enquiries with lawyers. DLA Piper has signed up an additional 240 legal volunteers and is triaging and matching in the region of 200 enquiries a day, so the project has now responded to over 1,000 queries.
The author is a co-founder, with Miranda Butler, Simon Cox, CJ McKinney, Alex Piletska and John Vassiliou, of the Ukraine Advice Project.