Apparently the Refugee Legal Centre are to change their name to Refugee and Migrants’ Justice. I’m not quite sure about the plural there or the apostrophe, both are best guesses.
The name change suggests a serious change of direction for the organisation rather than just a broadening of its activities. RLC said they would start taking on immigration cases quite some time ago, and indeed have an ‘under construction’ Immigration Legal Centre section to their poor website. As far as I know they have not done so. There is little experience of immigration work in the organisation, so this wasn’t much of a surprise. The name change development suggests they intend normal immigration work to be a major area for them in the future. Some training and careful supervision may well be required to effect this without buggering up their first cases…
The name change also suggests a move to a more overt campaigning role. RLC have previously campaigned primarily through their small but very effective litigation team. Although now that Ravi Low Beer, Sonal Ghelani and Anne Singh have all left, it is far from certain that this high profile litigation will continue. Consultation responses and stakeholder engagement by RLC have always been sporadic and sometimes a bit esoteric – see RLC’s barmy response to clause 50 of the new Bill, for example. It proposes that the High Court opt-in is retained only for refugees, basically. Sod the rest of you. This suggests that something more than a name change will be needed to become an effective advocacy organisation for migrants as well as refugees.
RLC need to avoid falling into the trap of their rivals, IAS. RLC was created when the refugee department seceded from an organisation called UKIAS, the United Kingdom Immigrants’ Advice Service, in 1992. UKIAS collapsed and in 1994 was re-born as the Immigration Advisory Service. Having lost the asylum specialists, the organisation only undertook immigration work. That changed in the mid-1990s and IAS started to take on refugee cases as well, despite having no history, experience or speciality in dealing with the work. Arguably, that legacy continues despite recent very positive developments at the organisation. The lesson for RLC? Only a fool learns from his mistakes; a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.