Refugee Council launches practical guide on providing early legal advice for people in the asylum process

Posted On: 25 November 2015

UntitledMEDIA RELEASE, 25th November 2015

Today, the Irish Refugee Council (IRC) will launch a Manual which is informed by the free early legal advice (ELA) project which has been run successfully by the Irish Refugee Council Independent Law Centre since 2011. It is the result of a collaborative effort of committed staff who have worked at the IRC Law Centre since its inception.

The Manual aims to give practical guidance to lawyers, legal advisors and legal representatives, caseworkers and NGOs who give legal advice and assistance to people during the early stages of their application for asylum. It is hoped that the manual will be used as a practical guide across the EU as well as in Ireland.

Brian Collins, Senior Solicitor with the IRC Independent Law Centre said, “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. ELA is an essential pillar of a meaningful asylum system.”

Mr Collins continued, “Given the complexities of this area and the inherent vulnerability of people seeking protection, early intervention is as valuable and important in this area of law as it is in other areas of law.”

In her foreword to the Manual, Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness said:

“The Manual certainly lives up to the promise of its title. It provides step by step instructions on the provision of early legal advice. I have seldom read a document which offers so much clarity and so much good sense, and that is in an area of law that is notoriously complex and full of traps for the unwary.”

She went on to say, “It is clear from many of the judicial review cases, and from the judgments given by the judges engaged in hearing these cases, that legal advice at an early stage would have reduced both the time involved in reaching an eventual conclusion and the complexity of the decisions to be reached at the various different stages. This cannot but be in the interest both of the asylum applicants and of the state.”

A Manual on Providing Early Legal Advice to Persons Seeking Protection which is supported by the European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM) will be launched today at 6.15pm at the Atrium in the Distillery Building, Church Street, Dublin 7.




Caroline Reid, Communications Officer, 085 8585510


The English version of the manual is available here.

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.

The Manual explores:

  • Key stages of ELA
  • ELA for clients who are vulnerable or who have special procedural needs
  • ELA and the Dublin Regulation
  • ELA and children in the protection process

The ELA manual will also be translated into French and German