Until recently in Ireland, an asylum applicant was only legally represented at the second stage of the asylum process – before the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. This resulted in 90% of asylum seekers being rejected at first instance. In response, the Irish Refugee Council’s Law Centre (IRC) developed a project to increase the ability of applicants to access protection through early legal advice on initial asylum applications.
PILA saw the potential for pro bono assistance to increase the scope and impact of the early legal advice project by partnering the IRC with leading law firm, A&L Goodbody. The collaboration involves A&L Goodbody working on a pro bono basis to provide legal representation to applicants at the first stage of the asylum process.
Since 2013, 82 A&L Goodbody lawyers have dedicated over 2841 hours to 22 individual refugee cases and 5 family reunification cases. This unique partnership puts the applicant’s voice at the centre of the process, and demonstrates a different model of legal service in this area. With a large extent of the work done before the application is made, strong applications are produced that are trusted by decision makers leading to greater fairness and effectiveness in the process. This collaboration was the first of its kind in Ireland, winning the 2015 European Award for Local Pro Bono Impact.
For participating lawyers, “acting for a successful applicant for refugee status was undoubtedly the most fulfilling matter I have worked on. Corporate lawyers don't usually involve themselves in gritty, life-changing cases, and it was a privilege to be involved. It also brought out the very best in our team.”