Welcome to the Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit (MiCLU) – a specialist legal and policy hub based at Islington Law Centre in London.
We represent young people who have been displaced by war, fleeing abuse, trafficked into the UK for exploitation and slavery and young people separated from their families and effectively “invisible” in terms of civil and legal status because of immigration laws. Through our strategic litigation, policy reform and public legal education initiatives we drive systematic change to achieve equality and social justice for this group of young people.
We have a 100% success rate in direct casework securing protective status for young people so that they can recover from their experiences and begin to rebuild their lives. Our work has created significant changes in law, policy and practice and we are regularly called upon for expert advice, support, bespoke training and evidence from lawyers, NGOs, children’s charities, community and voluntary sector organisations and statutory agencies.
Please explore our website to discover more about who we are, what we do and how you can get involved.
We carry out our work through an integrated work programme, including a mix of:
- Direct legal representation and support for children and young people (via our pioneering child-centred and holistic legal and advocacy service). We represent children fleeing war, conflict, abuse and persecution, trafficked into the UK for exploitation and slavery and undocumented young people effectively “invisible” in terms of civil and legal status because of UK immigration laws.
- Strategic litigation (to bring legal change with wider impact and benefit for all young people).
- Policy and influencing work.
- Consultancy (supporting the work of statutory and non-statutory agencies to design and develop child rights based services, training and evaluation).
- Legal education work (training legal and non-legal professionals nationally on the needs, rights and entitlements of young people seeking international protection or whose lives are impacted by immigration laws).
- Public legal education work – the lives of young people are governed by an array of laws and policies. We design legal education courses with young people for young people and for the important people in their lives.
For more information about our work programme, please visit the What We Do page.
MiCLU was established in 2012 by Baljeet Sandhu based on her experiences as a youth worker and a legal aid lawyer representing migrant and refugee children within UK immigration and care systems.
2009 – 2010 – Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ – formerly the Refugee Legal Centre)
In recognition of the particular vulnerabilities and needs of children seeking asylum in the UK, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund (DPWMF) awarded funding to Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ) to build a targeted children’s rights programme to improve the legal representation of children and develop innovative strategic legal and associated policy work to further refugee children’s rights more widely. The programme had a profound impact on the representation of over 1,000 children and young people across RMJ’s 13 offices, whilst its strategic litigation and rights-based policy advocacy work led to a number of changes to law, policy and practice.
Having represented over 110,000 vulnerable people seeking asylum and/or human rights protection since its inception as the Refugee Legal Centre in 1992, RMJ was forced to close its doors due to a funding crisis, and went into administration in June 2010.
2010 – 2012 – Refugee Children’s Rights Project (RCRP)
During RMJ’s closure the DPWMF put in place an emergency resolution to protect the work of the RMJ programme, and to ensure its continuation they funded the Refugee Children’s Rights Project (RCRP) hosted by Islington Law Centre and Coram Children’s Legal Centre. Building on the work of RMJ the RCRP combined strategic litigation with rights-based policy advocacy to promote and advocate for children’s rights within UK immigration and care systems. Between 2010 and 2012 the project was involved in a number of ground-breaking cases on children’s rights and played a key policy and influencing role in the work of the Refugee Children’s Consortium and other legal and policy networks. The project also hosted expert roundtable events on the best interests of refugee children and guardianship for separated children. The project as well contributed to a number of research publications and guides and was a key partner in establishing the Strategic Legal Fund for Vulnerable Young Migrants.
2012 and the future – the Migrant & Refugee Children’s Legal Unit (MiCLU)
MiCLU was formally established in 2012 with legacy funding awarded by the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund (DPWMF) to take forward the successful work of the RMJ and RCRP, and we continue to grow from strength to strength forging new and exciting partnerships with law centres, lawyers, children’s charities, statutory agencies, academics and universities nationally.
Baljeet is MiCLU’s founding director and recognised as one of the UK’s leading experts on children’s rights in the field of asylum and immigration law. Baljeet qualified as a solicitor at Wilsons LLP in 2008 having worked in the voluntary sector for a number of years with a background in youth work. Baljeet later joined Refugee Legal Centre (RLC – later known as Refugee and Migrant Justice) to develop and design the UK’s first children’s rights programme for migrant and refugee children and support the work of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA) in establishing the UK’s first national training programme on refugee children’s rights. She later co-directed the Refugee Children’s Rights Project (RCRP) a partnership between Islington Law Centre and Coram. She has contributed to a number of legal publications and delivers child-rights based legal and policy training to lawyers, NGOs, statutory agencies and children’s charities in the UK and the EU. She sits as an expert advisor on a number of boards and panels, including the Asylum and Immigration Advisory Board of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England and the Strategic Legal Fund for Vulnerable Young Migrants. She is the founder and legal expert of the Law Centre Network’s Principles to Practice project – a socio-legal research project involving 18 Law Centres across the UK evaluating UK process, practice and decision-making in cases involving unaccompanied asylum seeking children. She was awarded the Young Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year in 2011 and appointed a 2014 Clore Social Leadership fellow and 2016 Vital Voices global leadership fellow.
Anna is our specialist children and young person’s immigration solicitor. Anna has been practising immigration and asylum law since 1998, and has worked at Islington Law Centre since 2003. Anna has experience of running a wide variety of cases having extensive expertise in representing victims of human trafficking, slavery and exploitation. Since 2010 Anna has specialised in immigration and asylum cases involving children and young people representing child victims of trafficking, young people fleeing war, conflict and violence and undocumented young migrants in the UK. Anna was awarded Immigration Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year award in 2006 in recognition of her expertise in supporting and representing highly vulnerable migrants. Anna has been a consultant Peer Reviewer for the Legal Aid Agency in the Immigration and Asylum category since 2006.
Roopa Tanna has been practising immigration and asylum law since 1995, and has worked at Islington Law Centre since 2011 joining the Refugee Children’s Rights Project to support the project’s strategic litigation work and later joining the Immigration Unit as a supervising solicitor. Roopa has a wide caseload covering complex asylum, immigration and judicial review cases and has been working closely with MiCLU to take forward test case litigation on children’s rights and representing young people in complex immigration and public law challenges. Over the last few years Roopa has been heavily involved in High Court challenges against the legal aid cuts following the enactment of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 and legal challenges creating safe legal routes to the UK for children in the Calais refugee camps. Roopa was awarded a 2014 Champion of Justice Award and was a 2015 finalist for the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year award in the Public Law category.
Jen joined MiCLU in September 2015 as our Legal Education Officer. She has worked as an immigration and asylum solicitor since 2005, most recently as Lead Solicitor of the Young Persons’ Project at the Legal Services Agency (a law centre based in Glasgow), providing advice and representation to migrant children and young people across Scotland. Jen also works as a Legal Adviser for Freedom from Torture, and an Associate Lecturer at the Open University in Scotland, where she teaches first-year courses in both English and Scots Law. Jen is leading on the development and expansion of MiCLU’s Responsibility Shared legal education programme, which aims to offer innovative, practical training about the rights of children, and to enhance support for legal and non-legal professionals who work day-to-day with vulnerable children and young people subject to immigration control across the UK. Contact Jen on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deborah joined MiCLU in March 2016 as our Legal and Research Officer. She first became involved with refugee law while studying her Master’s at Charles University in Prague after visiting a Czech immigration detention centre. Deborah went on to work at Africa and Middle East Refugee Assistance, a British charity that provided legal aid and psychosocial services to refugees in Egypt, where she led the unaccompanied minors team, and later as refugee status determination team leader. Deborah has taught comparative international refugee law at the American University in Cairo, and also worked for UNHCR as a resettlement consultant and a refugee status determination appeals officer. She is an accredited caseworker at OISC Level 2, and from November 2015 supported our Centre’s work to reunite refugees in Calais with family members in the UK. Deborah leads our legal research programme underpinning MiCLU’s advice, policy and legal education work. Contact Deborah at email@example.com.
Lisa joined MiCLU in May 2016 as Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer. Lisa has worked on a wide range of policy areas which include children in care and care leavers, education, child poverty and disadvantage, youth justice, child trafficking, early education and childcare, and mental health – always with children’s rights at their core. She was Head of the Policy Unit at the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) as well as clerk to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children in Westminster for many years, and has also led on Unicef UK’s domestic policy work on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. More recently, she has provided children and family policy expertise on a range of freelance policy research projects, many of them focusing on children’s views and voices. In addition to her role at MiCLU, Lisa is also working with the Scottish Government on Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA). Contact Lisa on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christine is a solicitor and has specialised in publicly funded immigration and asylum law since 2002. From 2005 until 2014, Christine worked at Wilson Solicitors LLP where she specialised in complex asylum claims involving political activists from the Middle East. From 2014 until 2017, Christine was employed at Freedom from Torture providing expert legal advice and training to support lawyers in their work representing torture survivors. In May 2017, Christine moved to Islington Law Centre where she represented children caught up in the European Refugee crisis as part of the Migrants’ Law Project’s strategic litigation project. Contact Christine at email@example.com.
Esme brings a wealth of experience from her work with community groups. Having founded Refugee Action York and End Child Detention Now, since 2004 she has carried out considerable work for Shpresa Programme supporting trafficked women and unaccompanied asylum-seeing children from Albania. In recent years an increasing amount of her time has been spent trying to find good quality legal representation for clients. As a consequence she decided to retrain as an immigration practitioner. She completed the LPC in 2015 and will undertake seats in housing, immigration and asylum at Islington Law Centre, and a secondment in community care law. Contact Esme at firstname.lastname@example.org.