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Refugee and Migrant Justice goes into administration

After a formidable public campaign, supported across the migrant sector, most media and such figures as Archbishop of Canterbury and Ken Loach, RMJ today 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.

In the absence of any last minute intervention by the Government, RMJ Board of Trustees had to do the unthinkable and sign the papers to put the organisation into administration. It came as a shock, especially since RMJ wasn't asking for any new money. Here is the official press release.

So what happened? Well, the government decided that in order to speed up asylum decisions it would withhold the payment from the organisation providing legal assistance until the case is closed for good. Holding back the money should create a strong incentive to wrap up the case as soon as possible. And even if we put aside the thought that faster isn’t probably always better, for a charity like RMJ which deals with some of the most difficult, lengthy cases, this meant that it can take up to two years before their costs are reimbursed. When the new rules kicked in RMJ experienced a cash flow crisis.

So why didn’t they ask for a loan? After all, almost everyone from the government right down to us citizens is living on borrowed money. Well, it seems that charities are just about the only ones that cannot get bank loans to finance the cash gap. And while David Cameron speaking about a Big Society bank stressed that loans will have to be made available to charities, if the Big Society is to become more than a catchy phrase, RMJ unfortunately won’t be around to see it happen.

I guess, the irony of it all is that the problem hasn't been caused by the swinging axe of spending cuts. But since the estimated costs of closure to the taxpayer will be higher than the bridging capital needed to save RMJ, it will be an additional waste of money at the expense of some of the most vulnerable people and at the profit of unscrupulous law firms doing the minimum possible to advance their clients’ cases.

So it made a lot of sense to a lot of people to campaign to save RMJ. A case was made in almost every media outlet and a fierce public campaign was orchestrated by RMJ in the last month. Unfortunately to no avail.  

We were all deeply sadden by the news and wish all the best to everyone working at RMJ.

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Comments

Excellent blog and you are quite right that this debacle with RMJ is the (unintended?)consequence of the new way of paying for legal aid after the Carter review. Agencies are now paid by the case rather than by the hour (which already means that any agency that is conducting complicated or time consuming cases will lose out) and also payments are made only when cases are closed. By the nature of the sort of cases that RMJ was dealing with (many of which can last for years) it was obvious that cashflow was always going to be an issue. We are therefore left asking whether this attack on legal aid for immigration cases is a cock up or a deliberate conspircacy to cut costs. The attack on legal aid generally is shameful and is about to become far worse. The demise of an excellent organisation like RMJ shows the reality behind any notion of a "Big Society" to be cynical rubbish

Here is the latest news http://refugee-migrant-justice.org.uk/?p=1302

Administration – latest news

The administrators had a meeting with the Legal Services Commission at 12.00 today (June 16).

The Legal Services Commission confirmed that the Minister’s decision was final and that, despite any short term cost to them, there would be no change to the current funding arrangements.

They were asked to help the organisation with rents so that it could have more time to close files down and help clients find new representatives but this was declined.

The administration papers will be filed in court this afternoon.

Demonstrate Against Likely Closure of Refugee and Migrant Justice – Defend Legal Aid

Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ), the largest provider of specialist legal advice for asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants in England and Wales, went into administration on June 16 2010. 

UNITE, the union that represents RMJ’s 340 staff, has called a demonstration outside the Ministry of Justice at 4pm on Friday 18th June 2010.  Please join us.

This is a result of cuts in Legal Aid over recent years and changes in the way in which Legal Aid providers are paid.  RMJ used to get paid monthly, but is now only paid after each case is closed – many cases last many months or even years.  No charity can be expected to wait that long for payment and many law centres are finding it difficult to cope with the new payment system.  David Cameron’s claims to value the work of charities rings very hollow indeed.

RMJ (formerly the Refugee Legal Centre) was founded in 1992 and in the last year alone has helped over 11,000 people. Closure would mean that many thousands of vulnerable people will be left without legal representation.  Many will face being returned to countries where they face persecution and their lives are in danger.

So far the Ministry of Justice has declined to help RMJ. UNITE is calling for RMJ to be saved and for proper Legal Aid funding to ensure that the most vulnerable members of society have real access to justice.

Cuts in public spending are affecting the poorest people right across our society.  But these people did not cause the economic crisis and should not be made to pay for it.

UNITE, the union that represents RMJ’s 340 staff, has called a demonstration outside the Ministry of Justice at 4pm on Friday 18th June 2010.  Please join us.

Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
London SW1H 9AJ

Tubes: St James’s Park and Westminster

For further details, please contact Rachael Maskell, Unite National Officer, Community and Non Profit Sector: 07768 693933

You may have seen the parliamentary debate earlier today. This is one of the statements by Ken Clarke!

---------------
Responding to an urgent question in the Commons Mr Clarke told MPs that "every other organisation" including charities had coped with changes in the way legal aid was paid.
----------------

We urgently need other providers and organisations who know about law and human rights to send out statements confirming the the whole sector is struggling because of delayed payments. At the moment Mr Clarke is painting a picture that RMJ are the only ones with the problem and as you are aware, this is not true, but we urgently need leaders in the field to go on record with this.

The full text of this morning's parliamentary debate about RMJ is now online here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmtoday/cmdebate/03.htm#legal

I am a Trustee of a very small charity, working to help men detained in the Dover Immigration Removal Centre to access their legal rights. Apart from RMJ (and a very small team at the Centerbury Law Clinic based at the University) there are no other legal aid immigration lawyers in Kent. These men will thus have no access to legal advice and help with their cases. London lawyers cannot afford to come to Dover. This is an appalling situation.

Some media reports on yesterday's parliamentary debate.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2010/jun/17/rmj-kenneth-clarke
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/politics/10342476.stm

MRN is going to the protest today. Hope to see you there!

Photo's from the Friday's protest at the Ministry of Justice.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=19911732763&ref=ts

This is so sad. Whilst there is clearly a need to demonstrate/protest against the current payment arrangements for legal aid and the reduced funding for it, that doesn't immediately help the people without lawyers.

Is someone planning to organise a major fund-raising drive to re-establish RMJ on a new basis, and also help smaller charities like the Dover one ?

I have little experience of charity fund raising or organisation but I can think of dozens of people who would be willing to contribute money to such a drive

Hi Anne,

RMJ has put out an urgent appeal, which aims to raise funds to keep them going for another 3 months. You can read more on in our News section http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/news/2010/urgent-appeal-24-hours-save-refugee-and-migrant-justice

The RMJ demise is very sad. As an IT consultant I have worked with the IT staff at the RMJ on developing the 'Refugee Information Processing System' - RIPS.

Having visited many law firms I realise that the RIPS system is a very specialised case management system, which provides the lawyers with a means to prepare their specialist asylum cases faster and with greater efficiency.

The IT solutions at the law firms simply do not have the same level of focus on asylum matters and therefore involve more labour.

Who else, outside the RMJ, has an online case library of the same quality dedicated to asylum advice?

The RMJs IT solutions are very unique and represent years of specialist focus on making the processing of asylum cases more efficient, and with great success. I think Ken Clarke should take a closer peek to see how efficient the RMJ really is. Perhaps he is embarrassed by the success of the RMJ in defending asylum seekers?

At the RMJ I found teams of very dedicated staff, who work long hours for their clients and with their specialist knowledge, I doubt if any law firm can provide the same quality of service as Ken Clarke suggests.

@David

Do you know what is going to happen with their case management system? Transfering the case paperwork to new legal representatives is suppose to be taking place soon. I would imagine that the RIPS would be a very useful resource for other organisations, provided that the confidentiality and clients' personal details are sufficently protected.

Jan. You are absolutely correct. RIPS (the Refugee Information Processing System) would be a very useful resource for other organisations.

RIPS is designed to produce the information required by the LSC for payment - which makes the RMJ demise even sillier. In my opinion the RMJ have bent over backwards for the LSC to support their payment mechanisms.

Applied Network Solutions (ANS) and the RMJ have the source of the RIPS case management system, but ANS will not release it without permission from the RMJ.

The unique RIPS application was reviewed by AMERA for use in the processing of asylum seekers in Egypt.

As a result AMERA, sponsored by Comic Relief, commissioned a tailored case management solution, including UNHCR processes, which is installed in Cairo. ANS delivered this at cost.

We received this message from RMJ staff yesterday.

23 June 2010

Refugee and Migrant Justice administration - update

Refugee and Migrant Justice is saddened to announced that a last-minute rescue plan to save the organisation has not succeeded.

After launching an emergency appeal for funds, £76,525 was pledged by members of the public within a 24 hour period and a number of charitable trusts and organisations offered significant support.  However, talks with the Legal Services Commission, RMJ’s main funder, were unsuccessful.

The administrators BDO are now in the process of winding down the organisation.

People who kindly pledged money to RMJ are being informed and their money will be returned.

Caroline Slocock, chief executive of Refugee and Migrant Justice said:

“During this period, RMJ has received the most amazing support from supporters and we were overwhelmed and touched by the offers of financial help in response to our campaign.  We would like to thank everyone who has tried to save RMJ and very much regret that it has not been possible.“

Pease direct any media enquiries to the BDO press office, which can be reached at http://www.bdo.uk.com/press/press-office-contacts

Background Information:

Refugee and Migrant Justice, formerly the Refugee Legal Centre, was the largest specialist national provider of legal representation to asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants. RMJ was awarded the Liberty/Justice Human Rights Award in 2005, in particular for its litigation work with Zimbabwean asylum seekers.

For media enquiries, please contact BDO’s press office on 020 7893 3989.

I have been working as an interpreter since 2002. Refugee and migrant justice is the best firm that they help loads of people and take them out from the detaintion centre. all of their case workers are working very hard and all of them have good feelings about humanity.

I would like to say what a wonderful job the interpreters at RMJ did. Their Interpreter Translation Service was well-regarded and enabled rapid access to many thousands of interpreters with very specialist language skills. What will happen to this valuable service?

Hi

I have worked with RMJ since 2001 while it was in Oakington interpreting in 4 languages, and i have seen how hard all the case workers have worked, RMJ was the best organisation and verycaring for their clients. i would like to wish everyone best of luck,

Hi

RMJ is the best company ever and all of us interpreters feel we have lost the best organisation, May God bless everyone,
Can someone help, if we havent recieved payment for interpreting for the last month, as RMJ is closed who can we claim it from? will we recieve the money?
Many Thanks

RMJ had perhaps the biggest database of interpreters in the country. If anyone would like to start up running an agency for the interpreters, which is what the Interpreter Translation Service of RMJ provided, I can provide the software to manage this service - David Johnston - Applied Network Solutuions - 01256 300790.

BDO is the administrator. I guess you have to make your claims to Martin Foster - 0207 893 2233 at 55 Baker Street, London W1U 7EU

Latest development on RMJ:

Home Secretary and Justice Secretary in High Court over refugee charity collapse

Asylum-seeker clients of Refugee and Migrant Justice are taking the Justice and Home Secretaries to court to try to force the government to stump up close to £1m to cover the costs of transferring their legal cases to other lawyers.

The case opened in London’s High Court on Tuesday, with the charity’s clients seeking judicial review of the Legal Services Commission’s decision to terminate the charity’s contract and not provide sufficient funding to enable it to continue operating.  

They also say the Home Secretary should have undertaken not to reject any asylum applications or deport anyone until adequate alternative legal representation is secured.

And they request sufficient funds to cover the distribution of the outstanding cases to other lawyers.

Source: http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/finance/news/content/6853/home_secretary_a...

A short video with photos from the protest (circulate if you can)

http://animoto.com/play/iZhnx71PKsk22WrCKFJl8A

Hi

After working only for RMJ as an interpreter, now we have to find other organisation to join in for work, can any one give suggestions, which organisation have vacancy for self employed interpreters.

Thanks

I would urge you to write to your MP about the demise of the Interpreter Translation Service of the RMJ.

There seems to be no awareness among the MPs that the RMJ had a database of over 2000 interpreters, which allowed asylum seekers who did not speak english to be treated fairly.

I have suggested to my MP that the LSC should offer an interpreter translation service, but have as yet had no response back.

Many of these interpreters are unsecured creditors, who are owed money by RMJ. I would not blame these interpreters if they withdraw their services entirely.

Hi

I hope it goes through and someone offer interpreting translation service, as working only for RMJ for 10 years never, thought will be out of job suddenly and now it is so difficult to get into other jobs as they use their regular interpreters. I hope they understand what us interpreters are going through.

I think I am still in shock about all this.
I used to work for RLC/RMJ as an interpreter in south Kent.
I met some remarkable human beings there. It was a good pleace to be when fed up with a society of consumption where greed and personal interests prevail and where civil liberties and basic human rights are disappearing.
Does anybody know of new organisations helping out asylum seekers where we can apply and offer our services?

hi

I have been wirkng with Rmj since 9 yrs, Since Rmj has closed down I have registered with many organisation but still haven't found anything like Rmj, it was an amazing organisation helping people to the max. If anyone finds another organisation like Rmj please do let us know.
Thanks

Barbara Harrell-Bond OBE, Jeremy Staite (ex IT Manager at RMJ), Johan van Roojen (ex RMJ - Manager of Interpreting Services), Themba Lewis (ex RMJ), Stephanie Huber and others are trying to get a network together to provide services formerly provided by the RMJ.

If you are ex-RMJ, please contact Themba Lewis, who is currently in Cairo, or send an email to Barbara, who founded AMERA in Egypt to help asylum seekers there. If you can help, Barbara would like to know, because it helps her put a case together to attract funding.

As the author of RIPS, which was used at the RMJ, I am trying to get funding together to build a web browser version of RIPS, which all lawyers could use at minimal cost anywhere in the world. If we could get 400 lawyers to contribute £ 250 per year each we could develop a web solution from RIPS, which would allow the lawyers to maintain their case notes and share a global reference library of notes organised by country of origin. This would have even more functionality than the RIPS system. RIPS currently produces all the information necessary for fast payment to the lawyers by the Legal Services Commission - the new web browser solution would pay for itself in just this one activity and allow the lawyers to spend more time with their clients instead.

Many Thanks

Jad ALHALABI
Fritschgassestr. 6
A-5020 Salzburg

Dear Sir

Fristsetzungsantrag in der Sache Jad ALHALABI, Zl. E6 423.307-1/2011
Good day to you. this my case and evidence .
My name is Jad Alhalabi, I am currently seeking asylum in Austria, but the Austria government is following the human rights and justice and they are correct but I can prove it through my documents that they are not.
And I am not safe here in Austria ?
I got troubles in here by a Tunisian man that he even told me that he will kill me and attacked on me with a knife in his hand. I complained for Austrian police in St.Johann im pongau, but they have denied it and told me that when I see blood in my body then I can come to police even though I had medical report from the hospital then the police accept my complain and give me a copy of my complain letter but told me if I show it to anybody then the police makes problems for me and the name of that police man is Roman RAINER .I am not safe here in Austria.
In 06.09.12 I had a roommate. He is from Chechens country and his name is Hassan we were living in one room and without any reason he argued with me and tried to beat me. But that time it didn’t happen and after one day he tried to beat another person in the pension and I complained to the chaifeen of this pension and the chaifeen told him to change the room then in 11,09,2012 I came to my room and saw him in my room and told him to leave my room but he didn’t listen to me and started beating me after that I called the police, police came just took our names and told me that always you make these problems and they were tow police men then at the same night when the police left this person ( Hassan) started fighting with all the people in the pension and said that I will beat all the people in this pension and went out of pension, then in the next day he came with another person, that person was also from Chechens and his name is Adam and both of them said that they will come with other Chechens people to beat or kill all of us then at the same date at night they came with four vehicles and they were around 20 people with the knifes in their hands to beat or kill us, at the same time we tried to defense and called the police, when the police came they escaped and police couldn’t arrest them, and in the morning we went to police station and complained about them because they can come any time to fight us.
We are not safe in here and when ever I face with any problem and I go to police they always tell me that I am making problems the ID number of the police man is 4711.
but if I make problem then why should I go to police and ask for help.

I want to make formal complaint against Ms Steiner from the Bundesasylamt in Innsbruck (Austrian Government ) with Office of the Treaty of Dublin or UN in USA ?

And how can I get protection from the United Nations and the private papers to get them and I will be refugee under the UN?

Please check the attachments for my case and evidence.
Thank you very much and sorry for taking your time
And for you all respect and thanks

Jad alhalabi
E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected]
Tel:0043-6764816133