Access to early legal advice for people seeking asylum

Good quality early legal advice critically shapes people’s experiences of claiming asylum. For those often highly traumatized and vulnerable people who obtain protection, it helps to minimize what can potentially be years of emotionally exhausting uncertainty. It can also discourage those who are not suitable candidates for protection from pushing ahead with a costly and exhausting process. In this way it benefits both those seeking asylum, but also the individuals or bodies tasked with the responsibility of deciding if a person is at risk of persecution under the Refugee Convention or of serious harm as defined in the Qualification Directive.

The European Union recast Procedures Directive is clear that ‘frontloading’ is beneficial. The ‘Early Legal Advice’ research project was undertaken to examine the provision of legal advice to people seeking international protection in three EU Member States: Estonia, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. We hope that this report will be useful to those required to implement the Procedures Directive, as well as those who want to advocate for early legal advice. By examining what early legal advice means in very different EU member states, with variations in terms of numbers seeking asylum, the countries from which asylum seekers come and different administrative systems for the determination of asylum claims, this report will demonstrate that ‘early legal advice’ is not only beneficial but also adaptable to a wide range of contexts.

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