In praise of: New North London Synagogue Asylum Seeker Drop In
The New North London Synagogue’s drop-in centre for asylum-seekers is held in the afternoon of the first Sunday of every month at a primary school in north London. About 100 volunteers serve homemade food and listen to people’s stories, and there are teams of volunteer doctors and lawyers. Warm clothing is distributed as well as supermarket vouchers. It is a massive undertaking in helping humanity and the task keeps growing. At September’s drop-in, 458 asylum-seekers attended.
What is heartbreaking is that many of the attendees stay in a legal limbo for years, let down by bad legal representation and Home Office inertia and indifference, but unable to be returned to countries, such as Eritrea, Congo, and Angola, where they have suffered ill treatment. They can end up with little or no support, uncertain access to medical care and mental health problems due to isolation and homelessness. They are usually desperate to work but are not allowed to do so. (No surprise, then, that the Guardian has recently reported that asylum-seekers in the UK face the longest wait in Europe for a work permit.)
The volunteer lawyers attempt to diagnose the legal problem and then organisers follow up to try to find a decent legal aid solicitor – a difficult task with all the funding problems.
More asylum lawyer volunteers are needed (no follow-up work and only three or four afternoons a year), as are donations to keep this wonderful resource going. Contact the organiser, Diane Taylor, at: dianeltaylor@btconnect.com.

About the author(s)

Louise Christian - author
Louise Christian is the founder and former senior partner at Christian Khan, and is a consultant solicitor. She writes in a personal capacity.