From September 2020 to June 2023:
We have made it our mission to enable displaced persons to take informed decisions in the course of their asylum procedure. To successfully carry out this mission, legal aid must be provided in a flexible, mobile and accessible way. ELA is reaching out beneficiaries in and around Thessaloniki and provides them with up-to-date individualised legal assistance in their spoken language.
For asylum seekers, it is essential to have access to up-to-date legal information and to receive individualized assistance and advice throughout the procedure, including in the most remote refugee camps.
Without legal assistance, the chances of success in the asylum procedure are very low. Indeed, the procedure is complex and requires the applicant to actively invest in putting together his case and gathering evidence that is often difficult to obtain. In the absence of support mechanisms from the authorities and/or civil society, the asylum procedure is a real obstacle course for these individuals disembarking in a country whose language they do not speak, without support or income; insurmountable difficulties in refugee camps isolated from urban centers.
Getting asylum in the host state means finally being able to start a new life in safety. The applicant, previously living in a precarious situation, uncertain as to her/his legal status (detention, deportation?) then obtains a residence permit to legally reside in the host country. This residence permit also allows its holder to open a bank account, to work, possibly to enroll in the university or to school, to benefit from health care or to marry and start a family. In short, to exist.
We believe that every displaced person fleeing persecution has:
Since the end of 2021, ELA has extended its scope of intervention to provide the most comprehensive legal assistance possible, at all stages of the asylum procedure, including litigation. Unfortunately, Equal Legal Aid is currently one of the only organisations in the region to offer unconditionnal access to legal assistance, including at the litigation stage. For asylum seekers in the region, finding legal support, usually within a very short timeframe, is a real challenge.
Our team currently provides the following services:
- Preliminary legal counselling:
our team provides basic and general information about asylum, the asylum procedures, proceedings and deadlines. Preliminary legal conselling can be done via our hotline, or in person in our offices or during legal clinics. It allows our team to do an assessment of the case and get ready for further support.
- Preparation for the asylum interviews:
In order to assess the asylum request of a person, the Greek Asylum Service (GAS) along with EASO, conducts interviews. During those interviews, the asylum officer will ask questions about the reasons why s·he is seeking asylum, their journey to Europe, etc. It can last a few hours and/or several days. The asylum interview is generally perceived as an unnerving, highly emotional and distressing experience by asylum applicants. In order to best prepare for it and gather the relevant pieces of evidence, our team of lawyers and jurists are conducting individual mock interviews and informing asylum applicants of their procedural rights during the interview process. This preparation ensures that applicants are aware of the goal of the asylum interview, what documents to submit, so as to maximize their chances of being granted asylum. Indeed, although it is possible to appeal a rejection decision, chances of success are extremely low at the appeal stage (only 6%), which is why the asylum interview is so essential during the procedure.
Preparation for the admissibility interviews:
Since 7th of June 2021, Greece imposes an admissibility interview for Afghans, Bengalis, Somalis, Syrians and Pakistanis when they have transited through Turkey before entering the EU. Indeed, Turkey is allegedly a safe third country for asylum applicants originated from those 5 countries. In other words, they should request asylum in Turkey, in spite of Greece. As a result, asylum applicants from those 5 countries have to undergo an additional preliminary interview, called the admissibility interview. If deemed “inadmissible”, they will not have an asylum interview: they will be rejected without ever explaining the reasons why they had to flee their country (learn more about it). Our team assists applicants with this procedure as well, as it is widely unknown and misunderstood by asylum applicants.
- Representation before the Appeals Committee and before the courts:
Our team is undertaking appeals and defends cases that have been wrongly rejected at first and second instance.
- Assistance with subsequent applications:
Our team is accompanying applicants during their subsequent application, that is to say when they want to submit a second asylum request, when new events and new elements have occurred in their country of origin for instance.