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HRLA Booklet - Paul Dillane

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HRLA Booklet - Paul Dillane
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    Human Rights Lawyers Association Careers Day Wednesday 22 October 2014 Paul Dillane UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG)   Paul is the Executive Director of UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG), the only national organisation dedicated to supporting, and advocating for the rights of, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people seeking asylum in the UK. For six years, Paul was a refugee specialist at Amnesty International UK where he was responsible for the organisation’s involvement in asylum, extradition and human rights litigation in the UK. Paul prepared expert opinions in several hundred individual cases at all levels of the asylum process from first instance to proceedings in the European Court of Human Rights. High profile and reported cases include SB (Uganda) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] EWHC 338 (Admin), BA (Demonstrators in Britain  –  risk on return) Iran CG [2011], MO (illegal exit  –  risk on return) Eritrea CG [2011] UKUT 00190 (IAC) and KB (Failed asylum seekers and forced returnees) Syria CG UKUT 00426 (IAC).   Between 2004-2008, Paul was a legal practitioner and advocate in South Wales where he specialised in immigration, refugee and human rights law. He has studied human rights and refugee law at the LSE, Refugee Law Initiative and Birkbeck, University of London. If you use Twitter, and want more information, follow @UKLGIG and @Paul_Dillane. 1.   Which human rights practitioners do you find most inspiring? I have been lucky enough to meet human rights lawyers from across the world; people like Alice Nkom (Cameroon) and Beatrice Matetwa (Zimbabwe), whose commitment to human rights and the rule of law is unwavering despite the daily threats they face. In the UK, my friend Jonathan Cooper OBE  –  Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and Executive Director of the Human Dignity Trust, a wonderful charity that challenges the legality of laws which criminalise consensual sexual activity between adults of the same sex in countries around the world  –  is someone I very much admire. Jonathan has been at the forefront of human rights and LGBTI litigation for years. He was instrumental in the passage of the Human Rights Act and is one of its most vocal defenders. 2.   When did you decide to follow a career in human rights? Was there one defining moment? I was a teenager in 1998 when Matthew Shepard, a 22 year old from Wyoming, was beaten and tortured to death simply for being gay. I found this profoundly shocking. I was very conscious that for those who are “different” –  whether that is due to race, religion, sexual orientation, etc  –  discrimination and persecution can be daily experiences. Human rights aspire to, and occasionally do, offer a solution. human rights lawyers association  3.   Did you do any internships or voluntary placements on your route into human rights work? No, frankly this was not an option. I grew up in a working class family and worked after school and on the weekends as a teenager as money was tight. When I was 18 years old I approached the only law firm in the area with a human rights law department and asked for a job as a paralegal. Surprisingly, they said yes! I juggled work with study thereafter. I think I was lucky. Social mobility, especially in the legal and human rights fields, is something that worries me. There are not enough funded internships and voluntary placements available. That needs to change. 4.   What has been the high-point of your human rights career so far? My first appearance in an asylum appeal as an advocate was a very important experience to me personally. I represented a young woman who had fled the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She had arrived in the UK as a minor but her case had languished in the asylum system for years. I prepared hard but was still petrified, all the more so when I discovered the first judge I would appear before was a QC sitting as a judge part time! The appeal was allowed at the conclusion of the hearing, still rare in those days. My client told me afterwards that it was only at that moment, despite having lived in the UK for four years, she felt she could begin to re-establish her life and move on from the past. I will never forget that experience. Every other case has followed from this one. 5.   What has been the low-point? I represented a gay man from Afghanistan who was forcibly sent back after his asylum claim was refused. Homosexuality is illegal in Afghanistan. The policy of the government at that time, indeed the approach of the courts, was that lesbian, gay and bisexual people should return home and “be discreet”. This was deeply shameful and only ended after the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in HJ (Iran) and HT (Cameroon) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] UKSC 31 [Read it!]. Sadly, that was too late for my client. I could not stop his removal from the UK and I never heard from him again. I still often wonder about him, I hope he is safe wherever he is. 6.   Is there a current human rights debate that you are particularly interested in? It seems to me that access to justice and human rights in the UK are under assault on multiple fronts. Extraordinary cuts to legal aid mean that fewer and fewer people have the ability to access legal advice and representation. Along with reforms to judicial review, these efforts seem to be an attempt to insulate public authorities and government ministers from challenge. Coupled with the attacks on the Human Rights Act, and the hysterical calls to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights and the Court in Strasbourg, we really do live in very worrying times. Those concerned with justice, including those studying law, should be doing their bit to oppose these plans. It is time mobilise and resist! 7.   What is your favourite human right? Perhaps unsurprisingly, Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - the right to seek asylum. It is a grand principle but rather more problematic in reality. 8.   Do you support the work of a particular human rights NGO?  I work closely with ot her partner NGO’s and try to support their work, and attend their events, wherever possible. We should not work in a vacuum; we are all fighting the same struggles! 9.   What is your dream job? At the careers day last year I said that I had my dream job, working at Amnesty UK. Quite soon afterwards, I saw the advertisement for my current job  –  Executive Director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group  –  and decided it was exactly what I needed. After six years at Amnesty UK, a new challenge was very welcome and UKLGIG is a unique charity that supports some of the most vulnerable in society. I am very proud to be part of the team. 10.   When was the last time that you pulled an all-nighter? During a part time LLM I decided to take, rather masochistically, whilst working at Amnesty full time. All-nighters are not productive or healthy, as was evident from the essay I wrote that night! I wouldn’t encourage them.   11.   What was the last book you read? I just finished reading Shami Cha krabarti’s book, ‘ On Liberty’  . She offers her perspective on  joining the human rights NGO Liberty the day before the 11 September 2001 atrocities and her work over the subsequent years. Shami eloquently defends the Human Rights Act but I suspect she is talking to the converted and, sadly, few of those who are committed to destroying the Act will read it. As an aside, at one point she says  –   “In truth, I was completely unqualified to lead a human rights organization in need of regeneration …. what on Earth did I know about management, fundraising and how to reach difference audiences and resist bad policies and practices or make positive change?” It was such a relief to see that I am not the only one who has these concerns sometimes!
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