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Refugee aid giant folds

22 June 2010

A leading asylum advice charity will close for good this week following a legal aid cash-flow crisis.

Staff from Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ) gathered outside the Ministry of Justice last Friday to protest against the department’s claims that the charity was responsible for its own demise by refusing to adapt to modern funding models.

The MoJ has insisted it did everything it could to help RMJ stay afloat, but added that it was a case of ‘survival of the fittest’ in what it considers an already saturated market.

An MoJ spokesman said: “The fixed-fee system introduced three years ago is already being successfully used by the vast majority of not-for-profit organisations in this area of law. As other organisations have successfully made this transition, it is only reasonable to expect Refugee and Migrant Justice to do the same.”

Hitting back at the MoJ’s claims, Caroline Slocock, chief executive of RMJ said it had only been forced to close because of the new delayed payments system, not because its books were not balanced.

Ms Slocock added: “While this problem is not unique to RMJ, it is a particular problem for the organisation because it works with clients with complex cases, and it sees the case through to conclusion, rather than giving a short unit of advice that receives a payment as soon as it ends. Late payment also has an unequal impact on charities because they cannot get bank loans to finance the cash gap.”

The not-for-profit group employed more than 300 people, including solicitors, legal advisers and detention centre support staff. It announced it was going into administration last week, and will close its doors for good on Wednesday.

An MoJ spokesman added: “We are confident there is widespread provision of legal advice in this area, with more than 250 offices nationally providing this type of service. Providers are also currently bidding to handle more than double the amount of cases currently available.”

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