Enhancing the Quality and Equality of Legal Aid

Enhancing the Quality and Equality of Legal Aid 4/2018-10/2019 is a project funded by the Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities (VN-TEAS).

The research project examines the accessibility, availability and quality of public legal aid and financial and debt counseling services.

The research is conducted by the Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy (Krimo), Owal Group and the Migration Institute of Finland.

Krimo and Owal Group will conduct two surveys in the autumn 2018, one aimed at the customers of legal aid in 2017, and the other at the customers of financial and debt counseling services. The answers are treated anonymously and confidentially.

The effects of the recent changes in legal aid for asylum seekers are analysed through interviews conducted by the Migration Institute of Finland.

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The report on the legal aid for asylum seekers in Finland was published on 12 December 2018. The study was carried out by the Migration Institute of Finland and was funded by the government. The aim of the study was to evaluate the impact of the limitations on asylum seekers’ right to legal aid in 2016.

The research group carried out extensive interviews of asylum seekers, officials and experts in order to collect information on the quality and access to legal aid.

Based on the research results the following measures are proposed:

  • The asylum seekers’ access to legal aid immediately after filing of the asylum application must be secured. The research revealed that different authorities and officials have differing ideas of what legal aid covers during the administrative phase of the asylum application. Thus, there is a need to harmonise the perceptions on this matter.
  • Finnish Immigration Service and the Ministry of Justice should jointly establish a procedure to ensure that the asylum seekers receive legal aid before, and when necessary, during the asylum interview. The legal assistant’s attendance in the interview should not be exceptional.
  • It is important that there are enough legal assistants with relevant expertise on asylum cases available. The resources of public legal aid offices must be secured, and the system should encourage also private legal practitioners to assist asylum seekers.
  • Procedures to ensure that the legal assistants have sufficient knowledge and expertise on asylum cases should be developed.
  • The appeal period to administrative courts must be normalised. The limitation on the appeal period has compromised asylum seekers’ access to justice.

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