Host Organisation: Coventry Law Centre

Denisa Gannon

I am a women of Roma heritage, originally from Czech Republic, I am fluent in Romanes, Czech and Slovak. I completed LLB from De Montfort University in Leicester and also completed the Legal Practice Course with support from the Roma Education Fund.

I am from a family where no one has higher education, my parents cannot read and write.

I moved to the UK as a single parent after experienced great level of discrimination and racism in my country of origin.

I worked as a cleaner for number of years, waitress and then as a teaching assistant and outreach worker for the Roma community.

I am involved in a wide array of projects engaging with Roma communities. I am the president of Roma Education Support Trust (REST) which promotes the achievements of Roma children and young people in mainstream schooling. It also contributes to the enforcement of the D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic (No. 57325/00) which is a case decided by the European Court of Human Rights concerning discrimination of Romani children in the education system of the Czech Republic.

I am also an honourable member and Election Officer for the Gypsy, Roma and Travellers Police Association (GRTPA), an organisation which supports police personnel with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds. In 2013 I participated in the National Association of Teachers of Travellers (NATT) conference in Birmingham, providing input on Roma culture, issues faced by Roma communities in the UK and on best practice in engaging with Roma communities and created a course which trains participants on similar issues. I am Roma mediator qualified by the Council of Europe.

Before I become a Fellow I was working for the AIRE Centre in London as their Roma Legal Officer, working on a project which aims to help tackle discrimination against Roma migrants in the UK by identifying and eliminating barriers faced by them when accessing their rights as European citizens. Also, identifying strategic litigation which might lead to positive changes in legislation that effects EU migrants.

I have various experiences in drafting recommendation for decision makers in institutions such as OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Council of Europe.

Project

Central England Law Centre is being funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy to lead a partnership of four UK organisations to develop a new pro-bono programme that will provide legal advice in immigration matters for children.

It is based on a model developed by Kids in Need of Defense in the United States and it will be called KIND UK. We are also hoping to receive support from the Microsoft Foundation, the founding funder of KIND US.

The aim of KIND UK will be to make legal advice available to children whose situation is made unstable or difficult by insecure immigration status. This work is no longer eligible for legal aid. The mechanism is for host organisations (voluntary sector advice agencies with expertise in immigration) to employ expert immigration advisors who can support pro-bono lawyers to take on these kinds of cases.

Our aspiration for KIND UK includes being a new voice in the area of migrant rights, and we recognise that the involvement of global corporate companies may add some leverage that is not normally available to third sector organisations.

Denisa’s project will be to develop a framework for collecting information about the situation of the young people we help, their needs, the outcomes of our work, difficulties caused by Government restrictions on migrant rights, case studies, as well as information about their other legal needs. All of the ‘host’ organisations are able to offer advice on other issues, like benefits entitlement, housing, access to other public services. Part of our service will be to ensure that young people know their rights in the UK and that any presenting issues are dealt with.

Denisa will work closely with the independent evaluators of the programme and with its national co-ordinator to support the promotion of KIND UK and also to assist in building its ‘voice’.

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