As An Immigration Lawyer, Surely I Too Can Approach Matters Like Muhammad Ali?


Muhammad Ali has died.   Why should his death  have such an effect  upon me (and others)?    Sometimes,  it takes  a great mans’ death to seek to know more about him.

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Muhammad Ali was not only a  boxing legend: outside the gym and  boxing ring  he was  also  well  known for his stance on justice, equality and  civil rights.  These  are surely  matters that immigration campaigners, immigration and human rights lawyers  deal with  on a day to day basis?  Defending the rights and freedoms of ordinary people? We stand for something in our  profession: fairness, justice,  seeking to  right a wrong. That too, among other things, is what Muhammad Ali also  stood for.

I remember Mrs Theresa May saying   on 6  October 2015,  “And my message to the immigration campaigners and human rights lawyers is this: you can play your part in making this happen- or you can  try frustrate it…”. ;

Rather than play along,  by whatever means or in whatever ways suggested by Mrs May, without  due regard to  the resulting  harsh consequences upon those  coming  to  the UK to seek protection or those  families being  torn apart  by   legislation and rules introduced by the UK Government, Mrs May  seems to have forgotten  that for immigration lawyers, there is another option.  To borrow from Muhammad  Ali,

“There is another alternative and that alternative is justice”.

What then can immigration lawyers learn from Muhammad Ali?  Would I really need  his tenacity,  boldness,  bravado and armoury simply to prepare and  submit a  straightforward  family  life  human rights application  to the Home Office?  But remember, an application one might  have  thought would pose no  significant problems might be  refused by the Home Office …………. without a right of appeal.  Therefore in matters of  research,  presentation,  anticipatory  preparation, even in “straight forward”   applications, immigration lawyers  too  can learn to “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.  Sometimes, it is the case that  skilful  preparation  and presentation in its initial stages,  will ultimately  determine  the success of a case  on appeal, remembering also, to those  who will, that it really  may be that “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

A person practicing  in immigration and human rights  law may at times  chose  to view and accept  the  job  as  a   nine to    five one. It is just that in some cases-  a choice.  Muhammad Ali approach was,  ‘I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’  A lawyer’s preparatory  approach is not going to  require physical  prowess  but a  calculated focus on  the goals to be achieved,   which would also  require a constant  intellectual sharpening of   skills,  be they research, analytical or exercise  of  judgement.  In  this regards,  problem solving  requires creative  skills such that  sometimes, the answer may not be so obvious and  will require a lawyer to  think out of the  box  bearing in mind that,  “A man who has no imagination has no wings.”

One can thus chose to  make an impact in this area of law,  potentially  affecting  not  just that one client but others too as in:

    • SM and Qadir v Secretary of State for the Home Department (ETS – Evidence – Burden of Proof) [2016] UKUT 00229 (IAC);
    • PD and Others (Article 8 – conjoined family claims) Sri Lanka [2016] UKUT 00108 (IAC);
    • Mandalia (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent) [2015] UKSC 59;
    • MM v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] EWCA Civ 985;
    • MF (Nigeria) v Secretary of State for the Home Department, [2013] EWCA Civ 1192;
    • Quila and Bibi v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2011] UKSC 45;
    • R (on the application of Baiai and others) (Respondents) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Appellant) [2008] UKHL 53;
    • Beoku-Betts (FC) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2008] UKHL 39;
    • Huang (FC) (Respondent) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department (Appellant) ([2007] UKHL 11).

 The lawyers involved in these and other important  cases  took risks and accomplished something – “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

An immigration lawyer   might  look at a refusal decision and hear  the words, “ impossible to challenge”.  That may  be what  some of the lawyers  who handled the above cases  might have heard but that  did not  stop them. As Muhammad Ali would say “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

Surely, approaching matters as Muhammad Ali  might,  as regards that home office application,  the pending  appeal  before the  Tribunal, the judicial  review claim right through to the Court of Appeal and even that Supreme Court challenge, “If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it—then I can achieve it“!



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