15th April 2018
We are delighted to announce that Prism client Refugee Legal Support (RLS) Athens won the Pro Bono Award at the Lexis Nexis Legal Awards.
This is a huge achievement and we couldn’t be happier for them.
The Lexis Nexis Awards bring over 250 leading lawyers together to recognise success across the legal sector.
Quote from RLS Athens on their win:
“On Thursday 15 March, RLS Athens received the Lexis Nexis Probono Award for 2018. We are delighted to receive this prize and are immensely grateful to Lexis Nexis and the judging panel for recognising our work.
We are approaching our one-year anniversary and there couldn’t be a better way to mark this milestone. Throughout this past year, we have experienced the demand for legal assistance in Greece that is far outstripped by the resources available. We believe in the basic human right of access to information on legal rights and support and remain committed to act in solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers and their representatives. We are extremely proud to have shown over the past year the impact which joint initiatives of legal professionals across the sector as well as volunteers can make in the lives of the most vulnerable and marginalised.
None of the work we do would be possible without the extraordinary dedication of all our partners, volunteers and donors – massive thanks to all of you. “
WHO WE ARE:
The RLS-Athens legal clinic was set up in April 2017 by a group of UK asylum and immigration lawyers with an initial grant from the UK Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association. We have since received grants from other institutional and individual funders, which have enabled us to continue to offer our services.
The lawyers who set up RLS-Athens had spent time volunteering in Greece and France at the height of the crisis in 2015 / 2016 and had witnessed first-hand the acute need for legal advice and assistance and consequences of demand outstripping available resources.
In our experience, asylum claims are often won or lost at the initial stages where the quality of a witness statement or an understanding of the necessary evidence can make a difference between a grant of refugee status or rejection of the claim. Refugees are often unable to navigate the legal maze to make applications to reunite with their family members elsewhere in the EU without legal advice and assistance.
WHAT WE DO:
We believe that individuals wishing to seek asylum and international protection should have effective access to legal advice and assistance to enable them to advocate on their own behalf. The common legal principles under the EU Common Asylum System and international refugee and human rights law allow us to use expertise gained in more mature asylum systems to both assist individual refugees and support our Greek colleagues.
Based on our experience thus far, our priorities are to:
offer free legal advice and assistance to refugees in and around Athens
build capacity and partnerships with Greek legal and non-governmental organisations
support refugees to acquire transferable skills with the view to contributing to their integration into the local community
The majority of refugees in Greece do not receive legal advice prior to a first decision on their asylum claim. Nor can they access legal assistance in order to reunite with their family members elsewhere in the EU. Greek lawyers are underfunded and unable to meet the demand for legal advice.
That’s where we come in.
To fill this gap, our volunteer lawyers travel to Athens and offer free, expert legal advice and assistance to refugees. Our clients come to us either as walk-ins to the clinic or by referral from Greek organisations.
Our main priorities are:
1. Empowering refugees to advocate for themselves by preparing them for their substantive asylum interviews
2. Identifying and assisting in obtaining necessary evidence
3. Assisting refugees to make applications to reunite with their family members elsewhere in Europe through the Dublin reunification procedure or the relevant EU member state’s family reunion process
4. Providing free training to refugees as community interpreters to empower them to gain sustainable life-long skills
We may also be able to provide advice or assistance in other areas, including referrals to other relevant bodies such as the Greek Asylum Service, embassies or for medical assessment.
From time to time, we collaborate with Khora and other Greek organisations to provide ‘Know your rights’ legal information workshops to refugees in and around Athens.
At present, RLS is unable to provide court representation in Greece relating to asylum applications.
We fund our work through individual donations and support from organisations that do not threaten the project’s independence or our ability to assist refugees.
Since April 2017, we have been able to send out volunteer lawyers each week to Athens, where they have been working closely with adult and child refugees on their asylum claims and applications for reunion with family members elsewhere in Europe. So far, over 400 refugees have received free legal advice from more than 50 volunteer lawyers.
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Lexis Nexis Legal Awards: https://www.lexisnexislegalawards.co.uk/ehome/200174916/2018-winners
RLS-Athens Website: https://www.refugeelegalsupport.org/
RLS-Athens Twitter: https://twitter.com/RLSAthens
RLS-Athens Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/refugee-legal-support/
RLS-Athens Facebook: https://facebook.com/RLSAthens/