Farewell to Barbara Coll

The Law Clinic recently wished a fond farewell to a long-time project supervisor Barbara Coll, who supervised the Clinic’s Immigration Unit since its establishment in 2014. 

Below Barbara talks about her time in the Clinic and members of the Clinic pay tribute to her work. 

The Immigration Unit is funded by the Destitute Asylum Seekers Support (DASS) Project to work with destitute asylum seekers who have been unsuccessful in their initial asylum claims. The aim of the project is to support these extremely vulnerable and often highly traumatised individuals to gather new evidence to support fresh applications for asylum.

By the time the Immigration Unit becomes involved in cases, our clients have already been refused asylum by the Home Office and at appeal and are generally no longer entitled to any form of support. They are often homeless, sleeping in night shelters or moving from place to place. They survive on charity and their lives are very chaotic. This commonly has very negative consequences for their mental and physical health and their sense of dignity has often been shattered by their experiences of ill-treatment in their country of origin and, unfortunately, their experiences of going through the asylum process in the UK. We generally find that clients do not fully understand what has happened in their cases so we take the time to explain this to them and to explore with them potential forms of new evidence in support of their cases. If there is potential for new evidence, we assist them in collecting and preparing new evidence before handing the case over to solicitors to prepare fresh applications for asylum to the Home Office. This process is often extremely time consuming. For example, in one of our cases, the process took in the region of 80 hours. Solicitors simply would not be paid for working that number of hours on an individual case by the Scottish Legal Aid Board and so the Law Clinic can play an important role in assisting refugees to achieve justice.

First and foremost, I have enjoyed working along with very committed Law Clinic students to assist an extremely vulnerable and marginalised client group. Asylum seekers are often vilified by the press and are not treated with respect by many of those with whom they come into contact during the asylum process. I have enjoyed being part of a project that is dedicated to treating asylum seekers with respect and restoring their sense of dignity. Through our project, asylum seekers are informed, in a way they can understand, of why they have been refused asylum and what evidence is needed in order that they can be recognized as refugees. At the very least, they are then able to make more informed decisions about their future which is crucial for all human beings.

I am returning to humanitarian work abroad. I am hoping to work with Syrian refugees and will be based near the Turkish/Syrian border.

The Law Clinic’s new Immigration Supervisor, Gillian Melville, remarked:

Barbara has been instrumental in developing the Clinic’s immigration unit and has supervised the project since its inception. The immigration unit has had many referrals and has been of great benefit to those who previously lacked an understanding of the status of their immigration cases, as well as providing guidance and support to those able to submit a fresh claim for asylum .Barbara is completely dedicated and passionate about the work she does, and we have all learnt from her drive and professionalism, not to mention her wealth of expertise in the field of immigration and asylum. It is commendable that Barbara is taking her expertise back to the field to continue her humanitarian work in the Middle East, where she will  be living and working in high conflict areas. We wish Barbara well for the future, and thank her for everything that she has brought to the clinic in the past two years.

Donald Nicolson, Law Clinic Director, added:

In a very short time, Barbara has made a huge impact. In two years, she took the idea of providing assistance to one of the most vulnerable groups in society and made it a reality. In doing so, she overcame many obstacles including having to retrain and  to deal with numerous other organisations. But what shone through in everything she did was her care for her clients and commitment to ensuring them the best possible service. In this way, she leaves a priceless legacy, not just in terms of a thriving Immigration Unit capable of serving many refugees in the future, but also  in the example provided to the students she trained and worked alongside. Hopefully many of these students will go on to follow in her footsteps and ensure that Barbara has an even more enduring impact on service to those most in need.

Miranda Hughes, a student advisor who worked in the Immigration Unit over the summer: 

It has been truly inspirational to work so closely with Barbara over the past few months. It is rare to meet somebody so passionate about what they do and I truly believe this will have a profound effect on how I approach my work in the future. The Immigration Unit is a testament to her expertise and commitment to change and I wish her all the best for the future.