Providing Protection – Access to early legal advice for asylum seekers

Posted On: 7 August 2014

Part of the refugee experience can mean subjecting yourself to an asylum process with close investigation in a strange environment, telling your account when you do not have a clear understanding of what you are meant to disclose and whether it will be treated with respect and held in confidence. It is an alien and all too often a debilitating experience that can exacerbate the trauma of being a refugee. Whilst the greatest impact is on those who are seeking refuge, the responsibility of those tasked with deciding claims for international protection can be made harder by the strictures of systems that require clarity where it is lacking. Suspicion can build up and lead to the process becoming more adversarial and hostile towards those seeking asylum.

Early legal advice is intended to assist the process by trying to ensure that the experience of claiming asylum and the task of the decision maker are not made harder by misunderstandings, mistrust and an inability or unwillingness to engage in what can be a very intrusive process. At its best, it enables the asylum seeker to participate in the system in a way that gives them trust and the decision maker confidence.

The intention in this research was to gather together the understanding of early legal advice in three different EU member states and the court decisions, statements and obligations which informed it an EU level. This was in order to ascertain what understandings of early legal advice existed and what level of commitment there was to provide quality legal advice at the beginning of the asylum process. The results are varied and perspectives differ even within the individual countries which were examined for the national reports. But the overriding view was that early legal advice can assist in ensuring that the right decisions are made at the earliest opportunity.

The EU is at a stage where most states are committed to bringing in some form of ‘frontloading’ by July 2015. This report is a contribution to the commitment that many are engaged in to not only comply with an EU directive but to ensure that those in the greatest need of protection receive it and are therefore able to begin the process of rebuilding their lives and making a contribution to their host countries as soon as possible.

 Read the full report here.

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