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Twenty years of Legal Aid for Refugees and Migrants

In November 2012, 20 years had passed since the launch of the Legal Assistance for Refugees and Migrants Programme of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.

Basic tasks of the Programme include providing free of charge legal advice to foreign clients seeking the HFHR’s assistance, as well as taking advocacy and litigation actions. The activities of the Programme also include monitoring domestic authorities’ compliance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms as well as Polish and European law concerning foreigners.

Moreover, personnel of the programme investigate the situation of foreigners in Poland, consult draft legislation and issue public statements in matters involving foreigners. Since 2011 the staff of the Programme have been also offering integration aid. Additionally, the LARM develops information on migrants’ countries of origin.

In 2012 alone, the Programme assisted more than 400 foreigners. In the same year the personnel of the Programme took part in the monitoring of guarded centres for foreigners and submitted comments on a draft of the new Foreigners Act.

Within the duration of the Programme, the Programme’s team has been continuously working with the following non-governmental organisations acting for refugees: the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, the European Legal Network on Asylum, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the European Asylum Support Office, and domestic governmental institutions and non-governmental organisations.

Currently, three projects are being realised as a part of the Programme:
• Lawyers for Refugees (5th edition),
• RETURNS. Legal aid and information for the returning migrants.
• Transfer of knowledge about migration and integration of third-country nationals via an international collaboration network.

The Programme of Legal Assistance for Refugees and Migrants team currently consists of ten people. Content-related supervision over the Programme is carried out by its co-founder, Professor Irena Rzeplińska.

More information about the Programme is available here.

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