Volunteer testimonials


Sancho Coenen (The Netherlands - July 2018):

What appealed to me most about volunteering as a lawyer in Lesvos is the opportunity to do field work in one of the places where it is needed the most, while being able to put to use the knowledge and skills I have acquired working as a lawyer. During my voluntary work in camp Moria I prepared clients for their first instance interview and advised clients on several aspects of their asylum procedure on the island. ELIL is one of the few organizations that provides legal assistance for clients in the camp. Whether or not an application for asylum will be successful will depend to a large extent on the first instance interview, which makes ELIL's work in the camp indispensable. That is also why I hope I can come back to work with ELIL in the near future.


Teresa Blake (Ireland - March 2018)

I want to acknowledge the excellent work being done by ELIL in very demanding circumstances. I admire the manner in which professional standards are being upheld. Thank you for the opportunity to volunteer. 


Martina Lage (Germany - November 2017):

It never ceases to amaze me that there are always capable, willing and friendly people to work with, that there is an instant team spirit and always a friendly atmosphere. And of course that is the best work - when you really can help.


Miranda Egan Langley (Ireland – August 2017):

During my time on the project I was seeing anything from 5 to 10 individuals a day. While many of these were new registrations I was also working on my case list of about 20-40 Applicants as it increased weekly as I was there.

While the applicants I assisted understood they were going to have to apply for asylum none of them understood that this might be difficult and many of them were scared to speak with officials once they arrived. This meant many of them had not been marked as vulnerable and details about their identity were incorrect.

We were in a position to advise them appropriately after their initial screening and to assist them with documents which would contribute greatly to their application.

Many of the applicants that I spoke with were very vulnerable and generally did not ask many questions on the first occasion. For most of them, speaking with ELIL was the first time they had been able to tell their story and this in of itself was a difficult task.

I think considering the type of environment that ELIL is working in, the organization is doing a fantastic job and it is well managed to a highly professional standard. There was considerable access to resources and at all times there was a supportive team in place to handle any queries. At the same time we were all made aware of the delicate nature of the work that we were doing and the importance in maintaining a high level of professional confidentiality.

I believe the team working in Lesvos is doing an exceptional job. There is a fantastic work ethic in place and it is evident that considerable time has gone into compiling resources, templates, case lists, and in general adhering to efficient case management processes in a highly professional and ethical manner. At all times I felt supported within my role which enabled me to contribute to a positive working environment despite the frontline nature of the work itself. This is also evident within the camp and also from other NGO’s on site. I found both applicants and other NGO workers knew ELIL and I was always greeted with positivity.

I only wish I could have stayed longer.


Martina Lage (Germany – July 2017)

I made interview preparations, I prepared the paperwork for family reunification and registered new clients. For me it is a miracle, that, as far as I know, we were able to help everybody who asked for our help. I think you could double the amount of lawyers and there will be far enough to do.

Applicants often have no clue what asylum is about. They think the fact that they have a relative somewhere in Europe increases their chances and they start with something like “I want to see my mother again”. The advice, to speak about what happened to them, to explain that it is necessary for them to explain their specific cultural backgrounds, is a revelation for most of our clients.

I never had the feeling that a question, a favour I asked for, or anything else was too much for either the Project Coordinator or the Legal Coordinator. Maybe that is the reason everybody tries as hard as they can. This team and I guess all the other teams in the past and future will perform especially well, because of their spirit.

Before I came to Lesvos, I thought it would be a good opportunity to put my abilities to a good purpose. But it was more. Now I am grateful for that experience. Despite our different backgrounds and the circumstances to work within, everybody in the team was ready to jump in if needed, was helpful and fun to work with and was extremely sensitive with our clients. I have met great people, maybe I found friends, but for sure I really would love to come back to continue.


Teresa Blake (Ireland – April 2017):

I think the project is working to a high professional standard given the reality of the location, facilities and ‘front-line nature of the service’. It is clear to me that hard work has been put in over the time of the project to build constructive and working relationships with various other groups and the authorities in the Camp while carving out the project’s own distinctive area of expertise.

I have observed the professionalism, hard work and commitment of all involved.

I wish to refer to the professionalism and manner of engagement of our Legal Coordinator in her dealings with EASO and GAS. It is a pivotal working relationship. The project is very fortunate to have her skill and expertise available to it.

Now that I am leaving I expect it will take some time to process all that I have been involved with here on Lesvos. It has been great to experience the common language of respect for the dignity of each and every human being, the pursuit of justice and human rights with my colleagues from other European countries. The easy way we were all able to work together was an added bonus.

Continued success to the project and a special thanks to the visionaries who put it in place.


Hrefna Dogg Gunnarsdottir (Iceland – October 2016)

First of all, I am thankful for having been able to participate in the project and extremely proud to be a part of a professional organization which responds to the situation of people fleeing their home countries to Europe. I am of the opinion that they project serves a vital purpose by providing badly needed legal advice to people currently residing in Moria camp and that the project benefits them directly.

The overall personal experience of the project was great. First and foremost thanks to the project’s great Project Coordinator who before my arrival prepared me with necessary documents and information about my work and stay in Lesvos as well as the unique work environment of the camp. During my stay with the project, the Project Coordinator showed his passion for the project with his enthusiasm, professionalism and by being a great team leader for myself and the other volunteers that were in Lesvos at the same time. I also enjoyed working with the other volunteers that were in Lesvos during this period which I spent in Lesvos. A big part of the project was to be able to share our experiences from working in different jurisdictions and learning from each other. I feel fortunate to have been a part of this strong group of dedicated and talented lawyers and grateful for new friendships.


Carla Matze (The Netherlands – June 2017):

People did not know their rights and did not know how to apply for them. Before they are informed by a lawyer they are completely lost. We are doing very important work at the camp.


Hannah Krog and Jens Bruhn-Petersen (Denmark – September 2016)

Our key work is legal advice in connection to the asylum claim. A large number of the applicants who arrive in Lesvos do not know what asylum is. Therefore, general advice about the asylum procedure and more specific advice about their asylum motive is our key focus. In our opinion, the lawyer of the project should use most, if not nearly all, of his/her time doing this.


Erik Hagenaars (The Netherlands – February 2017)

The fact that we were able to inform the clients about what asylum actually involves and prepare them properly for their procedures was, in many cases, very satisfactory. I have the feeling that what we were doing was very, very useful. The three weeks went very fast. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay, because of the work we did and also very much because of the camaraderie between all members of the team.