Refugee rights are under threat like never before - help us fight back

by Refugee Legal Support (RLS)

Refugee rights are under threat like never before - help us fight back

by Refugee Legal Support (RLS)
Refugee Legal Support (RLS)
Case Owner
We’re RLS – a team of frontline UK and European asylum lawyers and activists. We assist displaced people with casework support and legal advice.
on 02nd November 2023
pledged of £14,000 stretch target from 420 pledges
Refugee Legal Support (RLS)
Case Owner
We’re RLS – a team of frontline UK and European asylum lawyers and activists. We assist displaced people with casework support and legal advice.

Latest: Oct. 26, 2023

Peter's story

Peter's story's remarkable. He faced oppression, violence and torture, three continents and near drowning. He was kind enough to share his story with us so that we can tell the world what'…

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The UK government has recently ramped up its attacks on people fleeing violence and persecution. We’re raising funds so that we can ensure that they have the legal support and the tools to fight back.  

What's happening

At the Conservative Party Conference, Suella Braverman directly attacked the communities that we work with. She promised to “do whatever it takes to stop the boats and deter bogus asylum seekers”.  To a right-wing think tank, she described people fleeing their homes and escaping violence as “try[ing]” their luck. 

Only a few years ago, this was the language of fringe politicians on the far right. We would have been rightly appalled to hear it from the government. Now it's coming directly from the home secretary. 

There are almost no ways for people seeking safety to make it to the UK

For those who do arrive, prison, deportation to Rwanda, prison-barges and eviction at almost no notice are what they can look forward to. 

If you listen to the UK government, you’d think that the people they’re attacking have no need for protection. 

However, every day we work with people who have lived through the most appalling challenges. Many have lost loved ones, they may have faced torture and most of the people we help have been through harrowing journeys. 

After showing incredible strength and character to make it this far, they’re asking for the most basic human dignity and support to move on with their lives. 

What we're doing to help  

When you’re under attack from the very people who make the laws, legal support is often the only defense.

Our support is unique because:

1. We’re helping people through the few routes that are available 

As long as there are still routes for people to receive the protection they need, we’ll do what we can to help. This is why we have projects focused on:

  • Helping people from Afghanistan to find sanctuary in the UK

  • Bringing loved ones back together through family reunion so they can start their new lives together 

2. We restoring power through legal information and tools

With access to the right tools, communities are able to help themselves. We empower people through community engagement and legal information and tools. 

3. We do the work that nobody else does

  • Our project supporting family reunion in the UK is the only project providing this for adults

  • Along with our partners, we deliver the only project providing support for people fleeing in Afghanistan to resettle in the UK

  • We’re the only organisation with UK legal expertise working on the ground in Calais 

There is often little or no alternative support available. Without us, the people we help would be left to fight alone. 

4. We work at Europe’s key transition points 

We provide:

  • Legal support and information through our team in Greece 

  • Legal information to people abandoned in Northern France. 

How you can help 

We’re only able to provide this support because of the help of our friends and supporters

We're seeking to raise £8,000 so that we can keep providing this support. 

Every gift makes a difference:

  • £30 could pay for us to answer someone who needs our help 

  • £50 could pay for us to visit a refugee camp in Greece to provide legal information 

  • £100 could help us to prepare somebody for their asylum interview 

Thank you,

Nick and the RLS team 

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Update 2

Refugee Legal Support (RLS)

Oct. 26, 2023

Peter's story

Peter's story's remarkable. He faced oppression, violence and torture, three continents and near drowning. He was kind enough to share his story with us so that we can tell the world what's happening to people seeking safety. 

We've changed Peter's name and some details to protect his identity. 

Life at home

When looking back at his life at home, Peter remembers his barbershop most fondly of all. The independence that owning a business brought. 

However, as he's gay, he'd long “faced a lot of challenges”.

He was just about able to get by as he hid his sexuality. Things changed one night when local security guards - known locally as “vigilantes” - caught him and his fiance. 

First they beat Peter, then they took a bribe from his partner so that they wouldn’t take them to the police.

However, a few days later, as he arrived home from work his neighbour told him that the police had been looking for him. “I quickly took 2 or 3 things and went away.” 

He fled to his uncle’s house to hide. However, just days later he was shocked to see his photograph in the newspaper under a “wanted” sign. 

He knew that his only option was to leave. Thankfully, he made it to Turkey. 

Turkey and the start of a long journey 

Turkey was tough. Peter had no papers and was forced to take on the most dangerous work. 

He took a job in a company that cleaned old pipes. “We would put dirty old pipes in vats full of chemicals and they’d come out shining.”

The chemicals were so harsh that Peter would bleed from his nose after every shift. 

He hoped to make it to Europe, feeling that this was where he would find human rights and justice. 

His first step was to get to the Turkish coastal city of Izmir. He was crammed into the back of a van with 30 others. Peter’s a tall man and he was cooped up without being able to move for six hours. 

When they arrived, they had to sleep out in the open for days while they waited for the right conditions to cross the sea. They had no food or water and some of the group were forced to resort to drinking their own urine. 

A dangerous journey to Greece

When it was finally time to go, Peter and the others were confronted with a rickety dinghy. This was the start of a perilous journey that included multiple pushbacks and horrific violence that has left Peter with permanent hearing problems. 

We’ve elected not to publish the details of the violence and danger Peter faced on his journey and entry to Greece. This is to avoid problems for him in future, if he were to be identified. 

In the camp

After what he’d been through, Peter’s mental health had seriously deteriorated. He spent 5 months in the camp and became suicidal in that time. On one occasion, the people he shared a room with had to force a knife from his hands. 

In this context, an asylum interview would always be a challenge. Even worse, Peter’s interview took place just days after arriving. He had no legal support.

As a result, he didn’t know what was relevant to his case and how much or what should be revealed. He didn’t tell the authorities about his arrest warrant from home as he was worried that he’d be sent back. But this would be central to any asylum case. 

His asylum claim was refused. Twice. 


Eventually, he made it to the mainland, where he had to rely on the kindness of others. A daily struggle. 

He was in an incredibly vulnerable state. If you’re undocumented in Athens, you’re not only at risk of exploitation, but the police could pick you up at any minute and either put you in detention indefinitely or even illegally send you back to Turkey. 

Peter was looking for support. He spoke to a lawyer who wanted €300 up front. He later found out a friend had given this money and never heard from the lawyer again.

This wasn’t the first time he hadn’t been happy with the legal support he’d received. He felt the first lawyer he worked with “was not serious about my case” while another never met him.

“That’s how I found my good lawyer”

He was back in touch with one of the organisations that he knew from Lesvos, who put him in touch with RLS. This is when he started working with Artemis.

“When you meet a good lawyer and explain things, you feel the difference.” Artemis asked a lot of questions and worked out what he would need. She then worked with other professionals to gather the evidence. 

Protection and hope 

Peter’s case is particularly challenging. When your asylum application has been rejected twice, that’s usually your last chance.

Artemis had to work extra hard to get Peter back into the system. She worked with a psychologist to show why he didn’t submit his criminal file from home and worked with an LGBTQ organisation to show his active participation in the local community. 

She was successful and he’s now got his asylum card.

“When I got my card, I was so happy. I didn’t need to be afraid of police, I have happiness, hope, free movement, protection.” 

Peter can now work and is in the process of finding a job. 

This isn't the end of the journey 

Peter still needs to go through the asylum process. But he has a good case and his asylum card gives him some security and a means to fend for himself. And now he has our team helping him. 

Peter’s experiences would crush most of us, but he found the strength to keep going. ”I made my mind up that I could never go back. I needed to be in a country where there are human rights.”

“Where there is life, there is hope. I really believe this.” 

What’s next

We’ll now continue to work on his case and accompany him to an asylum interview in the new year.

However, we don’t currently have the funding to keep our full team in place. To keep helping people like Peter, we need to meet our fundraising target.

If you can help, please donate to our page.

Thank you

Update 1

Refugee Legal Support (RLS)

Oct. 10, 2023

Qaed and his family's struggle to be reunited

Statelessness and oppression 

As Bidoons from Kuwait, Qaed and his family have no rights at home. They have no access to education or even the most basic healthcare and face regular harassment or worse from the state. Kuwaiti Bidoons (not to be confused with Bedouin) are denied citizenship and are left stateless . An incredibly precarious situation. 

In Kuwait, the family lived in one small house with his wife and four children, his parents and his seven siblings and their families. 

Like many others, Qaed was determined to push for change and took part in protests against these intolerable conditions. The government started cracking down. When they started arresting people, he knew he was in danger and needed to leave. 

This wasn’t easy and he had to leave his wife and his children behind. He planned to find safety in Europe so that they could follow him. 

“I miss my family, my siblings. You can’t have a happy life in Kuwait.” 

A journey through Europe

Qaed first made it to Turkey before reaching Greece across the river at the border. He started travelling with a group and they supported one another, building strong bonds. Together, they decided to make the difficult journey to Finland. They’d heard that conditions were good there. 

“There were lots of difficulties. We’d often have no food for a day or two days. Often having to sleep rough.” 

When they got to Finland, it wasn’t what they expected. They were kept in a camp, he remained undocumented there and he could see no prospect of being joined by his family. Nothing seemed to be moving forward, he was stuck in limbo. 

“The thing that kept me going was my children. All I was thinking about was a better future. In Kuwait, there is no future.” 

Back to Greece

As things weren’t progressing, the family decided it was time to try to scrape the money together for Qaed’s wife and children to join him. He travelled back to Greece to meet them once they made it across the border. 

His family were tracing the same journey he’d taken before, facing considerable risks and serious danger. 

Once they made it to Greece, things became slightly better. The family was back together and they had some access to food, clothes for the children and somewhere to stay. But they still weren’t able to find the stability to start a new life. They didn’t have the money to feed the whole family and they were going without. All six of them were crammed into one room. 

The family continued to look for real stability but couldn’t find this in Belgium or France. Eventually, Qaed decided to go to the UK and arrange for the family to follow. 

To the UK and into detention 

At first, he was placed in a hotel in Liverpool. However, he was put into detention within days of arriving. He was moved to a detention centre somewhere near London. He’s still not exactly sure where.

He was due to be removed and was counting down the days to his flight. He was 24 hours from being removed when he had a reprieve as he found a solicitor to help him. His removal was stopped and with legal support, it was clear that Qaed needed protection and he was eventually granted asylum in the UK. 

Bringing the family back together

However, this was far from the end of his journey. His family was still stuck abroad without their father. This was where RLS’s family reunion project became so important. This is an area where there’s almost no other legal support available. 

Home Office decision-making is slow. Alongside volunteer lawyers from Orrick, we’ve worked with Qaed and his family for two years now, and have:

  • Worked with him and his wife to provide detailed advice on the options available to them

  • Helped the family gather the evidence of their family relationship - this is a challenge as Kuwaiti Bidoons have no documentation 

  • Drafted a statement with Qaed and his wife to detail their experiences and need to reunite

  • Collected documents from Greece and France

  • Obtained expert evidence to attest to the strength of the family relationship

  • Chased the Home Office for a decision 

It took a long time, but we recently found out that the case has been successful. Qaed’s wife and children joined him last weekend.

This is another demonstration of the importance of high quality legal support that is accessible and sustained throughout the lifetime of a case.

A new life

Qaed and his family have been on the move for years, but they’re now getting to a point where they can start a new life. It would be a mistake to assume that things will be easy from here - we’re helping them to overcome a new set of administrative issues and they need help to find proper housing. 

But they’re finally together, with secure status and can start to think of their future. 

The strength that the family has shown to get to this point has been enormous. Most people would be broken and bitter from such an experience. But Qaed’s able to see the positives, constantly thanking those who have supported the family. 

Asked what he’d tell others going through similar journeys, he replied “the journey will be difficult, with obstacles. Stay strong and carry on until you reach your destination.” 

We want to thank Qaed and his family for allowing us to share their story with you. 

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