Upholding the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and stateless people
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 13.9 million individuals were displaced in 2014 due to conflict or persecution. Across our DLA Piper offices in Europe we have established a Pro Bono Signature Project to address the complex legal issues facing these extremely vulnerable individuals. Each initiative within the Project has been uniquely developed in partnership with leading NGOs and intergovernmental organisations in these jurisdictions and involves undertaking strategic litigation, providing comprehensive legal research, analysis and recommendations, building the capacity of organisations working in this area, and assisting with policy reform.
- 175 volunteer lawyers involved from 15 DLA Piper offices across Europe
- Over 6,500 hours devoted to the Project
- Assisted over 175 vulnerable individuals and 10 NGOs/charities
- Work completed in 9 countries
We have established a series of legal clinics across Europe to assist in facilitating access to justice for asylum seekers and refugees. Through these legal clinics our lawyers meet with vulnerable individuals, work with them to obtain evidence to support their claims, draft the necessary applications, and provide representation at hearings.
Coram Children's Clinic: Our London office partners with Coram Children's Legal Centre to run the Children's Pro Bono Legal Service. The Service provides legal representation to children with a right in law to become British citizens.
Statelessness and Asylum Seekers' Legal Clinic: Our Italian offices partner with the Italian Refugee Council to facilitate access to the judicial procedure for the recognition of statelessness in Italy. They are also working with Ecoficcina to support asylum seekers with their appeal procedures.
Manuel Bravo Clinic: DLA Piper lawyers in the Leeds office support the Manuel Bravo Project working alongside BPP Law School students and specialist immigration counsel to offer free legal advice and support asylum seekers with their claims to legitimately remain in the United Kingdom.
Belgium Refugee Council Legal Clinic: The DLA Piper Brussels and Antwerp offices have partnered with the Belgium Refugee Council to run a weekly clinic out of closed centres. Lawyer volunteers attend the clinic, meet with the individuals, and take testimonials, in order to identify strategic litigation cases and improve the quality of information given to asylum seekers in Belgium.
Article 8 Clinic: Since 2013 DLA Piper London trainees have worked alongside BPP students, under the supervision of specialist lawyers from local law centres, to prepare witness statements and legal representation to support clients and their families that are seeking to remain in the UK based on Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Habeas Corpus Unlawful Detention Clinic: The Manchester office of DLA Piper has partnered with the charity Habeas Corpus to launch the first pro bono clinic in the UK assisting applicants for asylum who are being held unlawfully in immigration detention centres. With no automatic judicial oversight on decisions to detain, and a lack of access to representation, many instances of unlawful detention are currently unchallenged. DLA Piper lawyers assist clients to challenge these decisions, under the supervision and guidance of legal counsel at Habeas Corpus.
The Project also includes high impact strategic litigation to assist in effecting change in law and policy.
In 2015, three lawyers in our Paris office assisted to clarify the law in France on the concept of "internal flight alternatives" under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Working with a Supreme Court counsel, the lawyers represented an asylum seeker who fled her country because of domestic violence. The presented the argument that the French administrative authorities had failed to consider all relevant factors in their decision to deport the individual. This is the first decision of its kind and it is one that will have wider ramifications for refugee law in France.
Our lawyers across Europe support the UNHCR, NGOs and civil and human rights organisations that seek to educate, advocate or litigate against structural discrimination affecting refugees and asylum seekers throughout the region.
Comparative Legal Research: DLA Piper lawyers partnered with a leading charity in the UK, Refugee Action, to produce a comparative report on the legal frameworks relating to refugees in 16 countries around the world. The purpose of the report is to assist the organisation and their partners to understand the situation in comparable jurisdictions and advocate more effectively for change.
Secondments: DLA Piper provides an ongoing six month full-time secondment to the UNHCR. Since the inception of the programme, lawyers from our Hungarian and Russian office have travelled to Geneva to assist the Legal Affairs Service with a variety of projects.
Asylum Decisions Case Summary: Legal teams from our offices in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Poland and UK assist the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) to summarise leading asylum decisions in Europe.
Evidence gathering: Lawyers from our Russian offices support the Belgium Refugee Council by gathering evidence to support the claims of Chechen asylum seekers in Belgium.