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Emilija Berzanskaite
8th November 2021
Employment & Immigration

Fundamental Rights Agency publishes report on legal aid for returnees deprived of liberty

The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has published a report on ‘Legal aid for returnees deprived of liberty’ finding that effective access to competent legal assistance is a key safeguard to enable migrants in return proceedings to exercise their rights to an effective remedy and access to justice.

The report finds that migrants who come to Europe are many times asked to return to their home country for various legal reasons. While migrants wait for their departure and face a potential ban on re-entering the EU, they can still challenge decisions related to their return, exercising their rights to an effective judicial remedy and access to justice. However, access to free legal aid to help them with the appeals can be difficult, particularly for returnees deprived of liberty.

While the EU’s Return Directive requires EU countries to provide free legal aid to non-EU nationals pending return, returnees may face a range of legal and practical challenges which affect how they can access competent free legal aid on time. Such can be language barriers, access to information, short deadlines and complying with strict legal requirements.

The report identifies current practices and issues, and suggests how national authorities could improve effective access to competent legal aid for people in return procedures. For example, national authorities could:

  • Provide free legal aid for all decisions related to return.
  • Review that the conditions, such as deadlines and fees, do not make legal aid practically inaccessible.
  • Where NGOs are legal aid providers, ensure they are funded regularly to avoid gaps in the provision of free legal aid.
  • Guarantee that returnees are well informed of their rights and facilitate swift and confidential consultations in detention conditions with legal service providers who are experts in migration matters.
  • Allow national and international detention-monitoring bodies to regularly assess the use and effectiveness of free legal aid in pre-removal detention.

Access the FRA’s press release here and the report here.


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