Asylum Aid Annual Report 2020


At the beginning of 2020 Asylum Aid were part of Consonant, a charity for whom the challenges of the coronavirus public health pandemic proved a hurdle too far. But as a charity with a strong reputation for excellent legal representation and policy work, built over 30 years following its creation in 1985, Asylum Aid was an organisation that the sector could not afford to lose.

And neither could survivors of trafficking and torture. The coronavirus public health pandemic has not reduced the need for quality legal representation for survivors of trafficking and torture. Many survivors are still being turned away by law firms, law centres and others who do not have the capacity to take on complex cases and more legal aid practitioners are closing their doors. There is also a clear need for evidence-based and authoritative voices to challenge the increasingly aggressive stance taken by the UK government against people exercising their right to seek refuge – the future no longer looks merely hostile but inhumane and unworkable.

Given the crisis in quality legal representation and the joint focus on vulnerable survivors, it was therefore a natural evolution for the Helen Bamber Foundation to provide a home for Asylum Aid to enable it to carry on its work as a charity in its own right. In August 2020 Asylum Aid re-started operations in its own right with a team of 7 and under the umbrella of the Helen Bamber Foundation. By December 2020 we had a team of 10. The organisation passed its first Lexcel Audit and supported 118 clients through the asylum team and 328 clients through the welfare advice team.

When I first started my own career as a lawyer working with refugees I undertook joint work with Asylum Aid. So it is a great privilege to now be the Chief Executive of an organisation I have long admired and which has transformed the lives of individuals directly and the asylum system as a whole. It is also a great pleasure to work with such a committed expert team of legal representatives. A team who provide a friendly professional service and help survivors of trafficking and gender-based violence, including children, and stateless people to obtain the protection they need.

We have only been able to relaunch Asylum Aid because of the dedication of the staff members who committed their time to ensure that Asylum Aid had a future. I would also like to thank Sile Reynolds who was a Trustee of Asylum Aid for six years, and stepped up to be the Chair of Asylum Aid to enable the transition from Consonant to being a part of the Helen Bamber Foundation Group.

The ongoing encouragement from all of our supporters and partners has also been central to the organisations successful relaunch. I especially look forward to getting to know you more closely in the coming year. Now, I just want to thank you all for the extra mile you have walked to keep this fantastic organisation going and continue to deliver life changing outcomes.

Kerry Smith, CEO Asylum Aid