Conference on Early Legal Advice for Asylum Seekers takes place in Dublin today

Posted On: November 14, 2014

Media Release, 14 November

Dublin, Friday 14 November 2014 – The Irish Refugee Council (IRC) is holding an important one day conference today on providing legal advice for people seeking asylum. The conference, entitled Early Legal Advice for People in Need of International Protection, is being hosted by law firm A&L Goodbody, and represents a unique opportunity to bring together those interested in the area, from policy and decision makers to lawyers, to explore best practice in the delivery of early legal advice.

Speakers from Ireland, the UK, Estonia and Canada will examine the opportunities and challenges of providing early legal advice to protection applicants.

The Independent Law Centre of the IRC has run an early legal advice and representation initiative for people seeking international protection in Ireland for the past three years. In addition, the IRC has led a European project across three EU states – Ireland, the UK and Estonia – to assess how early legal advice works in different jurisdictions. Funded by the European Programme on Integration and Migration, the research led to a report entitled Providing Protection: Access to Early Legal Advice for Asylum Seekers.

Jacqueline Kelly, Managing Solicitor at the IRC’s Independent Law Centre, said “Early legal advice and representation facilitates people in need of protection in articulating their case at the outset. It assists the State to get the decision right first time and avoid a protracted asylum process that is both detrimental for individuals and families and hugely expensive to the State.”

The IRC is committed to working towards a protection system that incorporates early legal advice as an essential component of a single protection procedure and today’s conference is an important contribution to debate and discussion on this issue.

Sue Conlan, CEO of the IRC and co-author of Providing Protection, said “Early legal advice is an essential element of a protection system and is required to limit the possibility of errors and delays in the application process.  For this to be effective, resources need to be made available to assist the person seeking protection to present their claim to the decision maker.”

Speaking on behalf of the hosts of the conference, Eamonn Conlon, Partner with A&L Goodbody said: “Our pro bono programme is focused on using our legal skills to support people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to legal services.”

“We formed a partnership with the IRC Independent Law Centre around two years ago, which involves our lawyers advising and representing refugee clients pro bono at the first interview stage of the asylum process. This event gives us the opportunity to learn from experts in this field on how best to support asylum seekers at the earliest stage of the process. ”

Ends

 

Contact

Caroline Reid, Communications Officer, 085 858 5510

Notes to the editor

Sue Conlan (IRC CEO) and Evelyn Doherty (IRC Independent Law Centre Solicitor) available for interview.

 

About Independent Law Centre

For the last three years, the Independent Law Centre at the Irish Refugee Council has run an For the last three years, the Independent Law Centre at the Irish Refugee Council has run an early legal advice and representation initiative for people seeking international protection in Ireland.

Since 2013, the IRC Law Centre has been greatly assisted in delivering its early legal representation service by conference hosts A&L Goodbody in a pro bono partnership facilitated by the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA).

In Ireland, the state has provided legal advice to people seeking asylum through the Refugee Legal Service of the Legal Aid Board.  Unlike the model of early legal representation piloted by the IRC Law Centre, the existing system of legal aid provision for asylum seekers has focused the appeal stage rather than first instance.  Early legal advice is an essential element of a reformed asylum process and to avoid errors and delays in the process in future it is vital that resources are made available to enable legal aid to be provided from the outset.

The European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), a network of European philanthropic foundations, was created with the primary goal of strengthening the role played by civil society in influencing EU policy developments and in advocating for constructive approaches to migrants in Europe. It has provided funding to the IRC in its 2012-2015 programme to explore and advance the benefits of Early Legal Advice for asylum seekers.  Providing Protection: Access to early legal advice for asylum seekers

 

About A&L Goodbody relationship with IRC

In February 2013, A&L Goodbody, through the Public Interest Law Alliance, embarked on a collaborative project with the Irish Refugee Council Independent Law Centre This project involves lawyers of this firm advising and representing IRC Independent Law Centre clients pro bono in the first interview stage of the asylum process. To date, the firm has represented 24 clients.

This collaboration is the first of its kind in Ireland and has been adopted by the firm as part of our overall commitment to pro bono work.