Meet our team

Our staff team and board of Trustees

Tara Topteagarden

Director

Tara has worked in the Refugee Sector for 20 years, starting as a volunteer at Sheffield’s Conversation Club. Her background is in front-line support work with particular expertise in trafficking and unaccompanied children and young people. Tara has worked in a number of roles across the UK including at the Refugee Council, the Poppy Project, Freedom from Torture and Scottish Refugee Council. Tara is also an experienced trainer and has written and delivered professional training courses on a number of topics relating to refugee and migrant rights. Tara manages the staff team, is responsible for the general running of SYRLJ and works with our Board of Trustees on the strategic development of the organisation.

Tom Nunn

Legal Director

Tom is in charge of our Legal Advice and Representation service as well as leading on our legal strategy. He is a qualified solicitor and an accredited OISC Level 3 legal adviser. Tom joined the team in February 2022, bringing with him a wealth of experience in both private sector legal aid and voluntary sector legal work, having trained at Wilson Solicitors LLP and managed the Right to Liberty Project at Bail for Immigration Detainees (BiD). He has expertise and experience in both public and immigration law. Tom oversees all of the legal work we do. He supervises our other Legal Advisers and volunteers as well as working directly on some of our most complex cases. Tom leads on the development of our service model and makes sure our clients get excellent quality legal advice and are treated with respect and compassion. Tom also delivers training to partner organisations.

Jamie McLean

Senior Legal Adviser

Jamie joined SYRLJ in January 2024 and brings extensive experience of Immigration and Asylum casework. Jamie has specialised in representing vulnerable people including refugees, victims of trafficking, victims of domestic abuse and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. He began this work in 2015 at South West London Law Centres, where he qualified as a solicitor in 2018. In this role his immigration team won Legal Aid Team of the Year at the 2017 Solicitors Journal Awards. He has since worked as a senior legal adviser and solicitor at Kirklees Citizens Advice and Law Centre from 2020-2023, in which his team was independently peer reviewed at the highest rating of “Excellence” by the Legal Aid Agency in 2023. Jamie’s role is to maintain the highest standard of casework at SYRLJ and to supervise the casework team while also continuing to represent SYRLJ clients directly. Jamie delivers training on best practice, Legal Aid work, and ensures SYRLJ meets all regulatory requirements to the best standard.

Alice Griggs

Legal Adviser

Alice joined the organisation as a volunteer in September 2018. She joined the staff team as a Trainee Legal Advisor in February 2021 and in October 2022 became a qualified OISC Level 2 Legal Adviser. She works directly on clients’ cases providing advice and representation with the goal of helping them to be granted legal status in the UK. Before working at SYRLJ, Alice has worked in various roles in the voluntary sector, including with the New Beginnings Project and Sheffield Flourish, as well as providing support to people in detention as a volunteer with Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants. As well as her work with us, Alice is currently studying towards her Master’s Degree in Social Research.

Lili Balkin

Trainee Legal Adviser

Lili joined us in April 2022 as a volunteer and became a Trainee Legal Adviser in April 2023. Before joining SYRLJ Lili worked as a Casework Coordinator at the Red Cross in their Refugee Support Service. Lili has completed her Law Conversion post graduate course (SQE1) and is working towards qualifying as a solicitor through her work with us. During her undergraduate degree Lili was president of Student Action for Refugees Sheffield.

Anna Hamilton

Trainee Legal Adviser

Anna joined us as a Trainee Legal Adviser in July 2023. Before joining SYRLJ Anna worked as a Support and Empower volunteer at Manuel Bravo Project and as a caseworker at Amicus. Anna is undertaking her Law Conversion postgraduate course (SQE1) and is working towards qualifying as a solicitor through her work with us. Alongside her postgraduate course, Anna works as a Wellbeing and Accessibility Advocate and volunteered with Child Poverty Action Group.

Matt Rawlinson

Paralegal

Matt joined the organisation as a volunteer in November 2022 and started a new role with us as a Paralegal in June 2023. Matt assists the legal team in undertaking legal casework and administrative tasks. He completed his LLB Law at the University of Liverpool in 2022 where he undertook modules on Human Rights and Immigration and Asylum law and is currently working towards OISC accreditation.

Rosie Wright

Office and Volunteer Coordinator

Before working at SYRLJ Rosie worked in project management and network building at a climate charity, focusing in particular on liberatory democratic engagement for young people. Rosie joined as our Office and Volunteer Coordinator in June 2023. Rosie is responsible for systems and processes, and for volunteer strategy, recruitment, and supervision to ensure that all who volunteer with us are supported to have an enriching and enjoyable experience that contributes meaningfully towards the development of their personal and professional goals.

Gary Bell

Chair

After a career in project management with Royal Mail, Gary worked in international protection policy for the Refugee Council, specialising in conflict zones and countries emerging from conflict. He was a member of the Home Office Steering Group on Voluntary Return and the European Council on Refugees & Exiles Core Group on Returns. He has over 20 years’ experience working with refugees and since 2013 has held a number of roles for SYRLJ, ASSIST Sheffield and Voluntary Action Sheffield.

Anne Hudson

Treasurer

Anne has extensive professional management experience in the charitable sector, including a credit union, a law centre, an advice centre and three community forums. She has played key roles in fundraising, change management, strategic/financial leadership, and the development of the legal advice sector in our region, at Kirklees and Sheffield Law Centres in particular.

Chris Cole

Vice Chair

Chris became a qualified solicitor in 1998 and has specialised in Immigration and Asylum Law ever since, most recently as a partner at Parker Rhodes Hickmotts. He is accredited at the highest level of the Law Society’s Immigration & Asylum Accreditation Scheme – Immigration Law Advanced. Chris is the Chief Examiner for the Law Society, an assessor for the Immigration Law Advanced accreditation scheme, a member of the Law Society’s Immigration Law Committee, and acts as one of the Law Society representatives on the Legal Aid Agency Contract Review Board. Chris was appointed a fee-paid judge of the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration & Asylum Chamber) in February 2019.

Phil Moore

Secretary

Phil has long been involved in the third sector and community based projects and has a background in voluntary youth work. He began volunteering within the Refugee and Asylum sector eleven years ago with a night shelter operated by ASSIST Sheffield for people who had been made street destitute due to the refusal of their application for asylum. In 2014 he joined ASSIST as a full time staff member and currently works as their Office Manager. He joined the SYRLJ Board in 2018.

Victor Mujakachi

Victor has been very active in helping asylum seekers and refugees since he arrived in the UK from Zimbabwe. He acquired refugee status in July 2020 after 13 years as an asylum seeker. He has a professional background in finance but now dedicates his time and skills to the Migrant Rights work. He has volunteered for Sheffield Conversation Club, The Sunday Centre, Football Unites Racism Divides, as well as being a trustee in all the organisations mentioned. Victor currently works as the Emergency Accommodation Co-ordinator at ASSIST Sheffield.

Peter Veal

Now retired, Peter enjoyed a long career in the UK banking sector in systems development and project management at various levels. He subsequently became an IT consultant to Former Soviet Union banks in Moscow, Kyiv and Lviv, and performed similar work in Croatia and Thailand. He has been an independent IT consultant to ICL, Barclays and Electrolux. He has volunteered for the Samaritans, Relate and the VSO and has been a Trustee for Pitsmoor Youth Housing Trust.

South Yorkshire Refugee Law and Justice

https://www.adviceuk.org.uk/
© SYRLJ 2023 | Registered Charity No. 1199706 | Registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner: N202300046