A Manual on Providing Early Legal Advice to Persons Seeking Protection

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This manual is informed by the early legal advice (ELA) project which has been run successfully by the Irish Refugee Council Independent Law Centre since 2011. You can download the English and German versions now.


It aims to give practical guidance to lawyers, legal advisors and legal representatives, caseworkers and NGOs who give legal advice and  assistance to their clients during the first instance protection procedure. It is hoped the manual will be used across the EU and elsewhere, with this international audience in mind, it will be translated in to other languages. It references the various recast directives despite them not yet being transposed in to Irish law.


Early legal advice (ELA), or ‘frontloading’, involves intensive work over a short space of time. A lawyer may only have approximately three or four weeks to take instructions, complete an application form, draft and read back a personal statement and to collate and submit relevant evidence. This is a challenging task and it requires trust and rapport to be established between the representative and the client in a relatively short space of time.


The function of the lawyer in the ELA process is to assist the individual in need of international protection to be identified and recognised at the earliest opportunity. This work has three elements. Firstly, enabling the applicant to voice the full extent of her application (including overcoming fear of disclosure and concerns regarding confidentiality); a key feature of this process is assisting the client in preparing a personal statement ahead of her personal interview with the decision-maker. Secondly, assisting the applicant to consider what evidence it might be appropriate, safe and possible to obtain in support of the application. Thirdly, assisting the decision-maker by providing legal submissions which outline the protection needs of the client in the context of the state’s international legal obligations.