1951 was a very important year for me, although I did not realize it at the time. I was 16 years old, and as a representative of CEWC (Council for Education in World Citizenship, the UNA youth section) I attended the first General Assembly of the United Nations – which was held at the Palais de Chaillot, in Paris – as an “observer”. My first newspaper article was published, in Cardiff – by the Western Mail or the Echo – carrying my forecasts for the success of the United Nations. I felt very important. But I did not realize that 1951 was also the year in which both the UN Refugee Convention and the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms passed into international law.
But both instruments framed my subsequent life as a lawyer and as a would-be politician. The European Convention strengthened my interest in public and administrative law, and my battles with the Home Office fuelled my passion for Human Rights law. When the “dispersal” of refugees to South Wales commenced, in 2004, I was already 69, and firmly retired from any legal practice. But I came out of retirement, re-qualified as an OISC Immigration Adviser (Level 3) and regained a limited right to practise. That is when Asylum Justice was founded, in June 2005. I was driven by the combined instruments of 1951.
I have now had finally to retire from asylum casework. But I am proud of my role as a Patron of Asylum Justice, and I will do whatever I can to fight its battles, from retirement. AJ is part of a very small group of UK charities, capable of wholly independent operation and avoiding any reliance upon State funding of any kind. AJ’s role is to uphold the Human Rights Convention in its deployment by all UK public institutions. Indeed, I hope that AJ will continue to assert that the imposition of the standard “Merits Test” to refugee proceedings is itself a breach of the Convention – a breach that has been commendably avoided by Scotland. The UK Parliament is wrong to abandon refugees in mid-claim – asylum applicants should be given the unqualified professional support which justice requires. Until that happens, Asylum Justice must continue to flourish.
- Next s