Sometimes a case is referred to us which hasn’t received the attention or care it deserves. Maria’s case was one of these.
Maria had the impression that she wasn’t being listened to – neither during her Home Office interview nor by the solicitor representing her.
“The previous lawyer did not even give me a chance to talk. He just wrote down what he thought and decided for me. I was never given a platform where I could express my feelings. He said to my face early on: ‘This case won’t win.’ He judged me and never took the time to listen to my story.”
Maria’s story is filled with a lot of pain and distress, which made sharing her experiences a difficult and psychologically draining task. This is even more the case when the audience is the Home Office, whose culture of disbelief and hostile environment prevent most people from feeling capable or safe enough to share their story in full. Maria’s last solicitor had assessed her case as carrying less than a 25% success rate at appeal, which meant the solicitor was unwilling to grant her legal aid. Left without legal aid, Maria approached Asylum Justice on the recommendation of a friend.
“I felt very lucky to have my lawyer at Asylum Justice. I felt like I was in good hands and in the right place. She was the first person I opened up to properly about what had happened to me, because I felt very safe talking to her. I told her things which I hadn’t felt safe to talk about to anyone. She was so caring and committed to doing her job well. I felt protected and reassured that I was in a safe place. She told me to email her whenever I remembered something, and she would then call me back soon after to discuss it. There was no stopping her.”
Maria was referred to a psychiatrist who was instructed by Asylum Justice to write an expert report about Maria’s experiences. This report was submitted as evidence to the tribunal in Maria’s appeal. Expert reports are often essential to help establish a client’s story in an asylum appeal, as experts often diagnose clients with psychological conditions related to their past experiences. Without these reports, many cases wouldn’t be won.
“My lawyer at Asylum Justice told me once we had completed my witness statement that she could already see the judge granting me asylum. In the end, we never even had to go to a hearing before a judge because my case was granted based on what we submitted before the hearing – the witness statement, additional research, and expert report. My lawyer worked so hard to bring it all together.”
Once Maria’s case was resolved, she began the transition from asylum seeker to becoming a refugee. However, as is the experience for many new refugees, it was a rocky transition for her as she ended up becoming homeless and destitute for a month following the Home Office’s one-month eviction notice.
“It put me into a place I didn’t want to be again, and it brought back harsh memories. I finally managed to find a place with help from Asylum Justice and other organisations. Apart from this I’m still just constantly thinking about my kids, who are not here yet. The family reunion application is in progress, and I’m trying to take it step by step. I’ve been studying, working, playing sports, making friends and setting up a good life for us here. But being without them means I go to bed every night worried about them and this makes it hard to focus on my day to day.”
Although being granted refugee status does mean someone can finally work, access state support, apply for family reunion and put down roots, it doesn’t instantly resolve all our clients’ needs. ‘Move on’ and integration services provided by our partners are also incredibly important in helping them on the next steps of their journey to move on, settle and – hopefully – thrive here in Wales.
“Asylum Justice have so much demand from clients and it’s because they are providing the best service. I received the best support ever. I even recommended two more people in a situation like mine – and it looks like Asylum Justice have just won their cases.”