SWLLC: 50 Years of Working with Refugees

Rajitha Kumar and Pradeep Kumar portrayed at a staff meeting, 2005

Last week was Refugee Week and we were honoured to celebrate 50 years of working with refugees and ensuring they access the justice they deserve. Refugee Week (17th-23rd June) allows for us all to take the time to reflect on the importance of legal aid and the necessity of this service in supporting the asylum seekers who have made unimaginable sacrifices to flee persecution and seek safety for themselves and their families.  

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of South West London Law Centres, and we would like to use the opportunity to look back on the work our centre has achieved in its support for asylum seekers over the last half-century. In 2022-2023, we provided legal support to 206 refugees, as detailed in our impact report. This is an 83% increase from our figures in 1987, and is especially celebratory when considering the challenges posed by recent immigration laws, such as the Illegal Migration Bill 2023, and the Nationality and Borders Act 2022. These laws have made it increasingly difficult for displaced people to seek asylum within the UK, with at least 51% of asylum applicants in England and Wales unable to obtain a lawyer. Additionally, the ever decreasing funding for legal aid has made it challenging for SWLLC to carry out the work we wish to be doing.  

Despite these obstacles, our achievements would not have been possible without the efforts of our excelling Immigration Team. Earlier this year we were thrilled to announce that two of our dedicated immigration solicitors were recognised for the work they have done for refugees by being shortlisted for the prestigious Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (LALY) Awards 2024. Sabira Kashmiri, who regardless of only being a member of our team since 2022, was shortlisted for the Social Welfare category for her specialist work with victims of domestic violence, and human trafficking; and Paul Keeley, who was shortlisted for for the Public Law category, for his 15 years of dedication and success with criminal deportation cases. Both of them are a point of pride to our centre, as their work in transforming the lives of their clients represent what the centre has continued to stand for in our 50 years.  

However, we cannot discuss the successes of our Immigration Team without highlighting the exceptional work of Rajitha Kumar and Pradeep Kumar. The year 2024 marks their 20 anniversary of being essential, dedicated members of our centre. Pradeep, as the head of our immigration team, has been instrumental in leading us to success. His unwavering commitment, support and care for his clients setting a resolute example for the entire team and the centre as a whole. Under his leadership, our team has flourished, continually achieving outstanding results. Rajitha has been equally remarkable, lauded, and earning the gratitude of her clients through her unparalleled dedication in her efforts to securing better futures for them all.

One such testament to her impact can be seen in April of this year, when a client announced that they would be naming their newborn daughter after Rajitha, highlighting the unforgettable role she has played in their lives through her actions. Both Pradeep and Rajitha exemplify the high standard our centre has in its dedication to supporting refugees, and their long-standing service continues to inspire and drive our mission forward.  

Whilst we are proud of the work we as a centre have done for asylum seekers, we always strive to do more. If you would like to help our Immigration Team continue to do the work that we have been doing for another 50 years, please consider making a donation in honour of Refugee Week.  

You can read more about the amazing work of our Immigration team from the clients themselves below:  

28 May 2024

“It’s been a blessing to have such a skilled expert on my side.” 

*Harrold faced an uncertain and distressing future when he came to see Paul Keeley. Harrold had recently lost an appeal against deportation following a conviction for possession with intent to…

20 February 2024

“I am grateful to the South West London Law Centres for providing me with such an amazing solicitor.”

Marieme, a 60-year-old national of Mauritius, found herself ensnared in a web of trauma and persecution, stemming from her experiences of sexual and gender-based violence, including child marriage, domestic abuse, and involvement in drug trafficking.

5 September 2023

“I have nothing but gratitude for this life changing service”

*Hugo, a French citizen, arrived in the United Kingdom with his parents at the age of 4 months. He was no longer in contact with his British father and lived…