The 'European Lawyers in Lesvos Project' is a joint legal assistance project between theCouncil of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) and the German Bar Association (DAV). These organisations represent the bars and law societies of 32 member countries and 13 further associate and observer countries across Europe, and through them more than 1 million European lawyers.
The main aim of the project is to send volunteer European asylum lawyers to Lesvos to provide pro bono legal assistance to individuals seeking international protection.The volunteer lawyers support, and work closely with, their Greek colleagues from the Mytilene Bar Association.
The project is one of only a small number of legal assistance projects with permission to work in Moria Reception and Identification Center on Lesvos. It has been operational in Moria since early August 2016. Our work has two core elements. Our primary focus is the provision of one-on-one legal consultations to help applicants prepare for their first instance asylum admissibility/eligibility interviews – in doing this, we are the only legal assistance project that focuses on providing information, practical support and tailored advice for applicants at the first instance stage of the asylum process. We also provide assistance to adults and unaccompanied minors with regard to their family reunification applications.
We have up to 6 volunteer asylum lawyers on Lesvos at any given time, and each volunteer lawyer stays for a minimum of 3 weeks. We have so far welcomed 86 volunteers from 15 different European countries. All the project’s volunteer lawyers are practising and experienced European asylum lawyers who have been identified through a rigorous application and selection process.
The team also includes a full-time, legally-trained project coordinator, a full-time Greek asylum lawyer as legal coordinator, two legal assistants, full-time Arabic and Farsi interpreters and a Greek coordinator from the Mytilene Bar Association. We always ensure we have at least one French speaking lawyer.
We operate in Moria at least six days per week. In total, we have provided assistance to over 1,950 cases so far, over 1,550 of which have received first instance interview advice from our volunteer lawyers. In total, we have assisted over 3,000 people. All consultations are provided in our offices in Moria, to ensure privacy and confidentiality are preserved. We also operate in the section B detention area within Moria.
We believe access to legal assistance is a fundamental right and so provide our assistance to all, irrespective of nationality, age, sex, race, religion, disability or sexual orientation.
We have advised individuals from 53 different countries. Primarily, this has included Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis, Eritreans, Iranians and people from West Africa. However, we have also advised others, including Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Ethiopians and North Africans.
We believe that the provision of independent pro bono legal assistance is absolutely vital. Most individuals are attending their first instance interviews without having spoken to a lawyer. Many have a very limited understanding of the asylum process, the criteria that are applied and their rights and are unaware of the possibility of reunification with their family in other EU member states. Through its activities, the project aims to ensure that every person seeking international protection is able to consult, at no cost, an independent lawyer specialised in asylum law and that the rule of law is preserved.