Wednesday, 12 January 2011

CITIZENS for Sanctuary take on cowboy legal advisors.

CITIZENS for Sanctuary made the headlines before Christmas with our citizen action to root out the cowboy lawyers who are exploiting people seeking sanctuary. The piece, featuring Barbara Nalumu, a leader in the Ugandan community and with South London CITIZENS, went out on ITV London News and you can watch it here: http://www.itv.com/london/immigration-scam55229/

The issue of poor legal advice was raised repeatedly during the Independent Asylum Commission and came up at several our immigration workshops where CITIZENS worked with local trusted lawyers to provide a workshop for good advice and training. We want to identify the cowboy lawyers and, with the power of citizen action, we want to root out the lawyers and advisors taking advantage of people trapped in the immigration. Already, we have heard some horrifying stories about fake visas, incorrect advice and advisors charging extortionate sums of money to the most vulnerable members of our community.

So, at the South London CITIZENS Assembly, we launched our response to the testimonies of leaders who had suffered at the hands of cowboy immigration advisors. We are working name and shame poor legal advisors and work to build a positive relationship with those providing a good service. Not only do we want to take these unscrupulous advisors head on, we also want to train our leaders to be better at spotting issues and sign-posting people through the complicated immigration system.

Every good organizing action is judged on the reaction and we are seeing this campaign start to cause ripples through the sector. We are developing a relationship with the Office for Immigration Services and met last week with the Commissioner, Suzanne McCarthy. But we have also had the backing of Immigration Minister, Damian Green, who said "I am glad that London Citizens are going to play a part on driving the con artists out of the system." You can see the full interview here: http://www.itv.com/london/fullprogramme/

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