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Canterbury Archbishop seeks government help to save refugee charity

Signs open for the charity threatened with closure

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2nd June 2010: Just over two days after the Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ) said it faced closure due to delays of up to two years in payment for its legal aid work, the Archbishop of Canterbury has stepped in.

He has signed an open letter seeking the Government’s help for the refugee charity threatened with closure.

Signed by Rowan Williams, the letter addressed to Home Secretary Theresa May and Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke says it would be "a tragedy", if RMJ were to close.

The letter says RMJ is not asking for more money, just what it is owed. The Government’s decision to review legal aid is the perfect opportunity to cut out inefficiency so that good-quality providers like RMJ can be saved."

The letter has also been signed by several members of the House of Lords and Shami Chakrabarti from campaign group Liberty.

She says RMJ does an invaluable job in helping those who come to our country in search of succour.

The RMJ had earlier alleged the asylum system was facing chaos and cash crisis due to delays in the release of legal aid. In some cases, the delay was up to two years.

The organisation, the UK’s largest provider of free legal advice to asylum seekers, said a substantial proportion of legal aid was paid upon case completion.

The charity, representing people fleeing persecution from countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Zimbabwe, added the delays in payment up to two years was exposing to risk victims of trafficking and 900 unaccompanied children. The charity added it took on 11,000 new clients last year

Chief executive Caroline Slocock said RMJ was not asking for new money, it was simply seeking prompt payment of legal aid for the work it has carried out.

Slocock said charities like theirs were important to Prime Minister David Cameron’s Big Society and could not wait for up to two years for payment, as the Home Office processed the cases.

Slocock said the current legal aid payment system on asylum and immigration was even putting justice at risk, adding they hoped the government would reconsider and agree to take a genuinely fundamental look at legal aid in this area.

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