European Lawyers in Lesvos is a project organised jointly by the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) and the German Bar Association (DAV). Its main aim is to send European lawyers to the island of Lesvos to support Greek lawyers in the provision of legal assistance to migrants requiring international protection.
The purpose of this project is to give refugees in Lesvos the chance to receive individual legal advice from a lawyer. This is more important than ever, especially in the current international climate, as there is great uncertainty amongst the more than 4,000 migrants/refugees on the island about their legal entitlements. To support the efforts of Greece at this time, EU member states are currently sending numerous police officers and asylum law experts to Greece. We strongly believe that in order to ensure due process of law, every person requesting or requiring international protection should be able to consult a lawyer. This is the only way to ensure that the rule of law is preserved.
The project is one of only a small number of legal aid projects working in Moria. It has been operational in Moria since July 2016. Our work has two primary elements. First, we have been providing assistance to adults and unaccompanied minors with regard to their family reunification applications. Secondly, we have been providing one-on-one legal consultations to help applicants prepare for their first instance admissibility/asylum interviews – in doing this, we are the only legal aid project that focuses on providing information, practical support and tailored advice for applicants at the first instance stage of the asylum process. This second element of our project is our primary focus going forward.
We have up to 6 volunteer asylum lawyers on Lesvos at any given time, and each volunteer lawyer stays for a minimum of 3 weeks. We operate in Moria at least six days per week. All our lawyers work on a pro bono and temporary basis in collaboration with their Greek colleagues. They essentially give preliminary advice. Where any litigation is required before a court or tribunal in Greece, contact is made with a Greek Bar or a member of the Greek bars.
We believe that the provision of independent pro bono legal aid is absolutely vital. Most individuals are attending their first instance interviews without having spoken to a lawyer. Many have a very limited understanding of the asylum process, the criteria that are applied and their rights and are unaware of the possibility of reunification with their family in other EU member states. Through its activities, the project aims to ensure that every person seeking international protection is able to consult, at no cost, an independent lawyer and that the rule of law is preserved.
Furthermore, the project lawyers are required to provide weekly reports on their activities.
The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) is an organisation which represents the bars and law societies of 45 countries, and through them more than 1 million European lawyers. It is recognised as the voice of the European legal profession by the national bars and law societies on the one hand, and by the EU institutions on the other. It acts as the liaison between the EU and Europe’s national bars and law societies.
The German Bar Association is the independent organisation of German lawyers. Based on voluntary membership, the German Bar Association (Deutscher Anwaltverein, DAV) represents German lawyers and notary lawyers in all economic, public and professional interests as well as policy questions related to the rule of law. The DAV observes political and confessional neutrality and places great emphasis on respect for human rights and the rule of law. Furthermore, it promotes gender equality. Together with the German Federal Bar (Bundesrechtsanwaltskammer, BRAK), the DAV represents the German legal profession in the CCBE.