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Legal Services Agency Co-Founds Migrant Children Project

May 25, 2016   /  Uncategorized   /   no comments

Glasgow’s Legal Services Agency, Scotland’s largest law centre, is one of four in the UK involved in setting up a new service offering legal support to vulnerable migrant children seeking citizenship rights in this country.

A migrant boy is covered with a blanket as he and other refugees and migrants wait to cross the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis GREECE OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN GREECE

A groundbreaking pro bono project, Kids In Need of Defence (KIND) UK will be modelled on a similar American scheme, co-founded by UN refugee agency special envoy Angelina Jolie-Pitt, and the Microsoft Foundation in 2008.

The US project has trained more than 13,000 American attorneys to build a national network of lawyers able to represent children in immigration cases, and is now supporting development of the UK scheme.

Backing KIND UK along with Legal Services Agency are Central England Law Centre (CELC), based in Coventry and Birmingham; the Migrant & Refugee Children’s Legal Unit (MiCLU) at Islington Law Centre, London; and Coram Children’s Legal Centre, which works in the UK and around the world to protect and promote the rights of children. All the agencies involved have specialisms in children’s rights law.

An estimated 65,000 young people were born in Britain, have been educated here and speak English, but do not have the legal right to reside under immigration law. Research suggests many are living in conditions of severe poverty. Many are unaware of their precarious citizenship until they leave school and try to apply for bank accounts, jobs, benefits, college placements or university.

Still in its initial stages, KIND UK aims to train commercial lawyers to step in and support children with immigration issues. It is working with a growing number of commercial firms who are interested in increasing their level of pro bono work.

CELC chief executive officer Sue Bent explained: “Legal aid cuts in this country have left thousands of undocumented children unable to access legal advice. Many of these uniquely vulnerable children are either born in the UK or have spent most of their formative years here and could become British citizens, if only they could find a lawyer to help them navigate complex laws and through the difficult process of applying to the Home Office. Without this support, they face a bleak future, blocked from full access to education or employment, and left at greater risk of abuse, destitution and exploitation.”

KIND President Wendy Young added: “KIND is extremely pleased is to be partnering with CELC and our other UK partners to help protect children in the UK from harm and provide a future free from fear. We also look forward to working with law firms and corporations in the UK to help expand their pro bono work to provide children with the access to legal services that they so desperately need.”

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