Blog: Yeri, a Red Cross caseworker

Yeri 5Yeri is a casework co-ordinator in the Red Cross Young Refugees Service. When Isaak's case landed on her desk, she understood how urgently he needed specialist legal help to fight his nationality claim. This is the story of how she helped a persecuted Eritrean minor find some stability in the UK.

"Isaak’s was a particularly special case because it’s not very common that we have a young person in care who is unable to access a solicitor via legal aid. The solicitors who did the original asylum claim filed an appeal against his refusal but then closed down the file, presenting a huge barrier to him getting more help. It was clear we would need very strong evidence to get the case re-opened for legal aid and a lot of solicitors didn’t want to touch a nationality dispute. We were met with a lot of discouragement and ended up with an appeal date but no representation.

Isaak was known to the Red Cross Young Refugees Service because he attended some of our meetings. His social services keyworker managed to get his appeal hearing adjourned and three weeks before the new date, his case came to the Red Cross casework team. I looked for a solicitor but kept getting negative responses, so I requested another adjournment.

I heard about Advocate from about three different people at the same time but this was my first experience of doing an application. I went to Support Through Court because I thought at the very least, we could get him as much support as possible for his hearing. They helped fill in the form and I dropped it off the same day.

I remember it being very tight on the deadline and it was just before the Christmas holidays, so really terrible, timing-wise. When I came back in the New Year, I saw the email that Advocate had found a barrister and it all felt like such luck that it had all come together. It was completely life-changing and unexpected. I’d worked on his case for a year and it felt helpless. We just wanted him to have a fair shot at the appeal and good representation makes such an incredible difference.

Isaak felt that the barrister really understood his story. They only met once before lockdown and then there were a lot of technical difficulties trying to complete his statement. She just listened without judgment and she was always direct with him. It was good for him to have such strong guidance and it helped me to understand his background a lot more.

The best moment was when we got out of court and he felt so confident. He had been crying after his cross-examination, but after the final submissions he felt very confident that it would work. I was hopeful but I’m aware that cases based on credibility can go one way or the other really easily.

Isaak goes to college now and is living in independent accommodation. He’s very sociable but has experienced a lot of trauma and a couple of his friends took their own lives. Finding his mother and sister has been at the forefront of his mind, so the next step it to work with the family tracing service to see if we can find them."