Report on the quality of legal aid provided to asylum seekers published
An interim report of a study on the scope and quality of legal aid services provided to asylum seekers, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, has been published. The report focuses on examining how asylum seekers have reached the providers of legal aid services, what are the strengths and weaknesses of the legal aid provided, and whether asylum seekers have received the assistance they have needed.
The interim report is part of a more extensive research project examining people's experiences of the availability and quality of public legal aid services in Finland. Legal aid provided to asylum seekers is part of this entity. A specific objective of the study was to find out what kind of effects the amendments made in 2016 to the legislation governing asylum seekers' access to legal aid have had.
"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. I commissioned this study so that we can develop the legal aid services provided in Finland. Now it is time for us to deliberate what kind of further action is needed. We have addressed the problems highlighted and the measures proposed in the report, and we are currently looking for further solutions. Together with the Ministry of the Interior, we will next assess the need to amend the provisions of the Aliens Act concerning the appeal periods and the scope of legal aid provided in asylum matters. These legislative amendments will be carefully assessed and prepared, in the same manner as all other legislative projects," Minister of Justice Antti Häkkänen says.
"We will also look for ways to guarantee a sufficient number of competent legal counsels dealing with asylum matters," Häkkänen says.
The Ministry of Justice has already taken action to improve the situation.
"The Government Decree on Legal Aid Fee Criteria has already been amended so that the court can, for special reasons, increase the fee payable to the counsel if this is considered justified and reasonable," says Minister Häkkänen.
The Ministry is also involved in a project of the Finnish Immigration Service that aims to develop the legal assistance provided to asylum seekers as early on in the asylum process as possible.
Currently, state-funded legal aid can be granted for the duration of the entire asylum process, from making an asylum application to the possible proceedings at the Supreme Administrative Court. More than two-thirds of all asylum seekers have applied for state-funded legal aid. In 2015–2017, a total of 28,657 asylum seekers applied for legal aid, and 99% of them were granted legal aid. The remaining one-third had not applied for legal aid either because they had not been aware of this possibility or because they had not felt that they need legal aid.
The project Towards equal and high-quality legal aid services is part of the Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities. The project is being carried out by the Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy at the University of Helsinki, the Migration Institute of Finland, and Owal Group. Research in this field is needed for the strategic planning of legal aid services and for the assessment of the need to amend the legislation.
Inquiries: Lauri Koskentausta, Special Adviser, tel. +358 2951 50131, email: [email protected]
Report: Turvapaikanhakijat oikeusavun asiakkaina (Asylum seekers as legal aid clients, in Finnish)