Report: failings identified in asylum legal aid system

Ministry of Justice says it's already taken steps to improve the legal situation for asylum seekers throughout the process.

Asylum reception Centre in Helsinki / Credit: News Now Finland

An interim report produced for the government has identified failings in the legal aid system for asylum seekers, especially in the early stages of the process.

According to the study, there was a wide variation in the quality of legal advice provided to migrants, and lawyers often didn’t understand what sort of legal advice each asylum seeker should be getting.

Another issue highlighted by the interim report is that lawyers haven’t wanted to take legal aid cases dealing with asylum seekers because they weren’t paid very well for it.

“In a state governed by the rule of law, everyone must have an equal opportunity to have their case considered by a court. Legal aid enables everyone to pursue a legal process, even if they do not have any financial means” says Justice Minister Antti Häkkänen (NCP) whose ministry commissioned the report, which will be finalised in October 2019.

Häkkänen says his officials are addressing the problems that are highlighted in the report, including making sure there’s enough “competent” lawyers dealing with asylum matters. One way to do that is giving permission for a court to increase the amount of money lawyers get to handle asylum cases in some circumstances.

Asylum seekers can be given state-funded legal aid for the entire duration of the asylum process, and according to the Ministry of Justice, between 2015 and 2017 a total of 28,657 asylum seekers applied for this aid. Some 99% of them were successful in their application for free legal help.