4.10.4 Ensuring the quality of legal aid

The provision of quality legal assistance at an early stage contributes to the effectiveness of the entire asylum procedure. Seeking improvements, the Minister of Justice in Luxembourg proposed a general measure to increase the hourly rate for lawyers who provide legal aid,869 while the Migration Agency in Sweden underlined that public legal counsels for asylum seekers should have adequate, relevant education, experience and accountability for the services provided. 

In contrast, in Ireland, fees for counsellors providing legal aid in asylum cases were reduced, leading to a drop in interest from lawyers to take on asylum cases.870 At the same time, the Advisory Group on the Provision of Support including Accommodation to Persons in the International Protection Process assessed the asylum system in Ireland and made specific recommendations to the Legal Aid Board for improvements. The proposals included the provision of legal assistance in accommodation centres, the allocation of sufficient financial resources and staffing to the Legal Aid Board, an extended number of hours for lawyers working on asylum cases and the creation of a specialised team of lawyers on international protection matters, with the possibility of career development.871 

National authorities made rapid adjustments to adhere to health guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many interviews with legal representatives had to be moved online. While authorities strived to respect legal safeguards during the virtual format, FRA reported that civil society organisations identified some challenges– for example in Sweden – because nuances could be easily lost during online interpretation and legal counsel during remote interviews.872 

Weakness and limitations of national legal aid systems for asylum applicants were still apparent, for example in accessing competent and qualified lawyers in Finland873 and Malta874 and improving procedures by allocating cases to lawyers and increasing the number of legal aid hours in asylum cases in Norway.875 However, an amendments to the Finnish Aliens Act and legal aid were being processed in parliament, whereby legal aid would cover the presence of a legal representative in all asylum interviews. Legal representatives would also be remunerated according to an hourly rate as opposed to a lump sum. In Croatia, the JRS advocated for a control mechanism for lawyers who provide free legal assistance in administrative procedures, as applicants were dissatisfied with the communication with counsellors during the proceedings and its impact on the outcome of the case.876 This would complete the existing legal framework and control mechanism defined under the “Ordinance on free legal assistance in the process of international protection”, Article 11. 


 

 

 

[869] Ministry of Justice | Ministère de la Justice. (2020, August 3). Sam Tanson augmente le taux horaire de l'assistance judiciaire [Sam Tanson increases the hourly rate of legal aid]. https://gouvernement.lu/fr/actualites/toutes_actualites/communiques/2020/08-aout/03-tanson-assistance-judiciaire.html; Règlement grand-ducal du 29 juillet 2020 modifiant le règlement grand-ducal modifié du 18 septembre 1995 concernant l’assistance judiciaire [Grand-Ducal Regulation of 29 July 2020 amending the amended Grand-Ducal Regulation of 18 September 1995 on legal aid]. http://legilux.public.lu/eli/etat/leg/rgd/2020/07/29/a650/jo
[870] Doras. (2020, October 8). Reduction in legal aid for International Protection applicants is a further barrier to protection in Ireland. https://doras.org/reduction-in-legal-aid-for-international-protection-applicants-is-a-further-barrier-to-protection-in-ireland/
[871] Department of Justice and Equality | An Roinn Dlí Agus Cirt Agus Comhionannais. (2020, October 21). Report of the Advisory Group on the Provision of Support including Accommodation to Persons in the International Protection Process. https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/634ad-report-of-the-advisory-group-on-the-provision-of-support-including-accommodation-to-persons-in-the-international-protection-process/
[872] European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. (2020). Migration: Key fundamental rights concerns - Quarterly Bulletin - 2020: 1 July - 30 September 2020. https://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/fra-2020-migration-bulletin-4_en.pdf
[873] Human Rights Centre | Ihmisoikeuskeskus | Människorättscentret. (2020). Perus- ja ihmisoikeuksien toteutuminen Suomessa – koottuja havaintoja [Fundamental and human rights implementation in Finland — aggregated information]. https://www.ihmisoikeuskeskus.fi/@Bin/9108033/PIO_havaintoja_+IOK+2-2020.pdf
[874] aditus foundation. (November 2020). Input to the Consultation on the National Action Plan against Racism and Homophobia. https://aditus.org.mt/Publications/submissiontonapraxconsultation_10112020.pdf
[875] Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers | Norsk organisasjon for asylsøkere. (2020, August 10). Rettshjelpsutvalgets forslag [The Legal Aid Committee’s proposal]. https://www.noas.no/rettshjelpsutvalgets-forslag/; Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers | Norsk organisasjon for asylsøkere. (2020, November 25). NOAS støtter rettshjelpsutvalgets forslag [NOAS supports the Legal Aid Committee’s proposal]. https://www.noas.no/noas-stotter-rettshjelpsutvalgets-forslag/
[876] AIDA Croatia. (2021). Country Report: Croatia - 2020 Update. Edited by ECRE. Written by Croatian Law Centre.  https://asylumineurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/AIDA-HR_2020update.pdf

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