Mayor of London 'We Are All Europeans' Event

This post is part of a series celebrating Pro Bono Week 2019 in the UK which runs from 4 to 8 November this year, providing an opportunity to encourage, recognise and celebrate the work of lawyers who volunteer their services for free to those who would not otherwise afford legal advice.

We have a long and proud tradition of engaging in community and pro bono work around the globe; giving back is not just a side note for us, it is one of our core values. We recognise we are fortunate to have opportunities and that we have a duty to share our talent and skills to help others find theirs. To celebrate the contribution of our staff and charity partners in furthering this goal and encourage others to participate, this Pro Bono Week we are highlighting our pro bono initiatives in this Fragomen Gives Back blog series.

I've been working in the field of immigration law for approximately 14 years. For the last nine years, I've worked at Fragomen, specialising in corporate immigration. I began my career, however, working on asylum and human rights cases. Over the years, I assisted many unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, trafficked women and victims of torture. The work was emotionally exhausting, but also incredibly rewarding and serves as a continual reminder of how grateful I should be to live in a stable country free from persecution.

When I moved into corporate immigration, it was important to me to choose a firm that maintained a strong pro bono programme, enabling me to continue to "give back" and help those who are vulnerable or in need. Fragomen has a long, proud pro bono history in the US, and over the past few years I've been delighted to oversee our UK office developing an equally strong programme.

In celebration of the UK Pro Bono Week, we'll be publishing a blog each day this week to highlight some of the valuable work undertaken by our UK teams. I'd like to begin the series by providing an overview of a Brexit event we supported at City Hall in London in September.

Brexit has caused considerable upheaval and uncertainty for many businesses and individuals. There are approximately three million European nationals living in the UK, with more than one million of these living in London. In support of London's communities, the Mayor of London held a "We are all Londoners" event at City Hall on 21 September 2019, opening the doors to Londoners for a day of sharing European language, food, art and stories. The idea was to celebrate the diversity of our city and show that we will always be open.

As part of the event, several free legal advice services were provided, with Fragomen on hand to provide 1:1 consultations on the European Settlement Scheme. The demand was high, with more than 500 individuals seeking advice. The team and I worked non-stop all day, without so much as a tea break, to attend to as many people as possible, reassuring them about what the future holds and how best to secure their rights. If you require similar advice, please see our Brexit microsite and guidance materials here.

By the end of the day, we were very tired, but also buzzing. As we exchanged the stories and questions we'd heard, it became clear that the common, overwhelming theme was positivity and gratitude. Whilst it isn't perfect, the EU Settlement Scheme is one of the most applicant-friendly immigration systems in the world. There are a lot of scary stories online and in press, which have increased fear and anxiety, but we were able to give positive messaging and reassurance to almost everyone we met. In turn, the attendees extremely grateful and thankful for our time and advice and made a point of telling us so. It was clear our day had been well spent and we left with big smiles on our faces.

We also realised just how necessary the event was and committed to supporting similar initiatives. In particular, we are speaking at information sessions in conjunction with New Europeans and providing full application support to vulnerable EU nationals in conjunction with Here For Good. If you would like to hear more about these activities, my colleagues Zahira Patel and Zoe Pavlou will be discussing them further in their blogs later this week.

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