Project helping refugees wins recognition

Bedfordshire's Lord Lieutenant Helen Nellis with the University of Bedfordshire's Refugee Legal Aid Project.
Bedfordshire's Lord Lieutenant Helen Nellis with the University of Bedfordshire's Refugee Legal Aid Project.

The University of Bedfordshire’s Refugee Legal Aid Project (RLAP) has been recognised for its life-changing work by Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Helen Nellis.

Run by the School of Law at the University, RLAP’s success in reuniting refugees with their families earned the scheme the Lord-Lieutenant’s Community Engagement Award.

The initiative allows law students from the university to work with applicants, building up personal and employability skills at the same time as supporting the community and the lives of families from across the world.

Dr Silvia Borelli, who heads up the project, said: “This award is wonderful recognition of the dedication and effort of the student volunteers on the project, as well as highlighting the University’s efforts to engage with the wider community.

“The assistance the students provide to refugees makes a real difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of the community. That assistance is of particular importance given the lack of legal aid for these matters.”

RLAP, a collaboration between Bedfordshire Refugee & Asylum Seeker Support (BRASS) and the University’s Centre for Research in Law (CRiL), launched in 2013 and has to date helped 35 refugees with family reunions. By supporting refugees with their applications to UK Visas & Immigration, RLAP directly contributes to close family members – spouses, children and siblings – being able to leave war-torn countries. So far, 40 individuals (the vast majority of them young children) have received clearance to come to the United Kingdom and have been reunited with refugees assisted by the Project.

Dr Borelli and the cohort of students who worked closely with the refugees involved were honoured alongside a number of local Queen’s Birthday Honours recipients at a ceremony held by the Lord-Lieutenant at The Shuttleworth Collection in Old Warden.

Dignitaries present included the High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, the Countess of Erroll, the chairman of Central Bedfordshire Council, Cllr David Bowater and the Mayor of Luton, David Taylor.

Lord-Lieutenant Helen Nellis placed RLAP’s role in context within the community by saying: “The success of Bedfordshire residents being honoured in these various ways is truly inspirational. This is high recognition of their exceptional career achievements and voluntary work. It underlines that Bedfordshire people make special contributions to their roles and to our vibrant communities.”