Before we say goodbye to University of Strathclyde Law Clinic’s, Murray Kemp, he writes about his experience working with refugees before joining the Law Clinic and his time as the The Asylum Project (‘TAP’) Coordinator for 2020-21.
Before I joined the clinic, my interest in the asylum process was kickstarted by coverage of the “Refugee Crisis” back in 2015. Although the crisis was merely a high point in what has been a constant stream of people arriving into the UK, the intensified media coverage inspired me to help, so I spent 3 months volunteering with a kitchen project in Patras, Greece.
Once I began my degree, and long after the media spotlight had left, I made a commitment to continue helping the types of people I previously encountered in Greece. As I had always wanted to use my degree to help people and not just line shareholders’ pockets, partly inspired by Meadow in the HBO series, ‘The Sopranos’, I thought that volunteering at an inner-city law clinic seemed like a good place to start. I joined the clinic and took up several cases, but my main focus was ‘The Asylum Project’ (TAP). It was great to get involved, and under the guidance of Jordan Hamlett and Kudakwashe Chinyani, I met my first two clients.
Little did I know that these would be the last clients I met in person. News of a strange virus sweeping through a city in China began to move into my periphery, and before long COVID had hit and we were put into lockdown. This brought new challenges for TAP. Firstly, the training program needed a new format. Previously it had ran as a one-off session, which although informative, limited the amount of people that could join the project. With the help of summer student, Lauryn Dawber, we made a new, pre-recorded training session that meant people could join the project whenever they wanted. A steady stream of volunteers trickled into the project thereafter, and our casework team had great success, with two successful claims in one year meaning 6 people attained refugee status.
The next big challenge was how to do the forum theatre, an interactive public education session that had previously been shown at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. As students were prevented from meeting up, the options were either performing the theatre on Zoom (which was met with universal reluctance) or me whipping something up myself. After roping together a few flatmates and restructuring the script, we filmed a 20-minute-long movie on Snow White entering the UK asylum system. The show debuted at the online fair known as the St Andrew’s Fair Saturday, where it was met with much applause.
Altogether my time at the clinic has been inspiring and a lot of fun. It has been difficult not being able to speak to people face to face, but at least I got one short, sweet semester in the clinic office. I am excited to see how the new EU Immigration IACs work out, and how TAP continues to provide such a valuable service. As the UK Home Office ramps up its Hostile Environment policy and slides deeper and deeper into authoritarianism, the new recruits have their work cut out for them. But then again, the Home Office do not seem to be having much success in Glasgow these days, so I’m sure they will find a way.
Article by Murray Kemp, TAP Coordinator 2020-21.
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