Our lawyers provide free, independent legal assistance to asylum seekers on Lesvos
European Lawyers in Lesvos (“ELIL”) is an independent, charitable non-profit organisation.
Our team of Greek asylum lawyers and volunteer European asylum lawyers provide free, independent legal assistance to asylum seekers on the Greek island of Lesvos. Our lawyers work closely with lawyers from the Greek Bars.
There are currently over 11,000 asylum seekers on the Greek island of Lesvos, the vast majority of whom have fled Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. They have come to Lesvos to seek safety and protection, in the form of asylum.
The asylum process they go through is a complex and ever-changing legal procedure that is difficult to navigate. Despite this, there is no state-provided legal aid available for asylum seekers before their asylum interviews (this interview determines whether or not they will be granted asylum) and so the majority of them attend their interview without having spoken to a lawyer.
Without access to legal assistance, asylum seekers do not know their rights or understand the process and the criteria applied when their asylum applications are assessed. They are therefore significantly disadvantaged when they attend their asylum interview and may be unable to be reunified with their family, if they have family members in other EU member states.
Almost all the asylum seekers on Lesvos live in Moria Camp, where the conditions are notorious – it has recently been called the “the worst refugee camp on Earth” by the BBC. There are over 9,000 asylum seekers residing in Moria (which has capacity for only 3,100), more than half of whom are women or children, including over 300 unaccompanied minors. The numbers keep growing, with new arrivals from Turkey almost every day – so far this year, over twice as many asylum seekers have arrived compared to the same period last year, with an expected spike in coming months as Syrians flee Idlib.
ELIL was inspired by belief in the fundamental importance of upholding the rule of law, protecting human rights and ensuring meaningful access to legal assistance. We believe that every asylum seeker should be able to receive free legal assistance, from an independent lawyer experienced in asylum law, before their asylum interview. Through our activities, we aim to provide this free legal assistance to as many asylum seekers as possible on Lesvos.
So far, we have provided free legal assistance to over 7,800 people.
Our work has real impact and demonstrates the importance of asylum seekers having access to legal assistance: of those we have assisted who have notified us of the outcome of their asylum application, 74.5% have been granted asylum, compared to an average of 46.5% in Greece.