Hundred of practitioners are providing pro bono services and urging the government to offer assistance
UK lawyers are banding together to extend aid to Afghan nationals stranded in Afghanistan following the takeover of the Taliban.
The Law Society Gazette reported that over 400 immigration lawyers have established a group to coordinate and share knowledge in response to calls for advice from both Afghans and UK residents with family in Afghanistan. A number of initiatives were also quickly launched to direct people to sources of information on immigration law.
DLA Piper’s pro bono team is backing a volunteer email hub service manned by a growing team of over 150 to address enquiries and point people in the direction of immigration specialists. Meanwhile, City firm Bates Wells is helping to spread the word about the plight of Afghan nationals through collaborating with NGOs.
“We simply cannot abandon Afghans who couldn’t get on a flight. Morally, that’s not right. For every second wasted, more lives are put at risk,” Bates Wells immigration partner Chetal Patel said in a statement published by the Gazette. “We must keep up the pressure and continue to lobby. The voices of those closest to the people on the ground in Afghanistan need to be heard. Working with organisations like Afghanistan & Central Asian Association (ACAA) and other NGOs helps spread the word.”
The ACAA has opened its London office to lawyers offering on-the-ground legal aid. The organisation also called on the UK government to assist in evacuating, resettling and protecting Afghans who are in danger.
In an open letter to the Home Office and other government departments, the ACAA, along with the heads of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, pitched safe and legal evacuation routes and visa system amendments to facilitate the entry of refugees into the UK.
“Existing routes for family reunion can be used and expanded to process applications for visas from those people at risk in Afghanistan with family members in the UK. Such routes should be expanded to facilitate family reunion for a broader category of family members than currently eligible and to relax the existing criteria for sponsorship of family members from abroad,” the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association said in a statement published by the Gazette.
Lawyers have also extended assistance to the Refugee Action charity, which recently released an information handbook for Afghan nationals. Lawyers also set up a webinar in 24 hours to provide information to 150 attendees looking to help.
These efforts were organised after the withdrawal of US and UK forces from Afghanistan last month.