Why Legal Aid
Asylum seekers waiting for food, Moria Camp (Lesvos), August 2019
At SolidariTee, we believe that access to fair representation is a fundamental human right. In the short term, legal aid minimises the risk of an individual who has a legitimate claim to asylum being deported unjustly and brings family members, scattered across Europe, back together again. This aid allows refugees to begin prosperous lives beyond camps, and gain rights to education, accommodation and healthcare.
It’s the most empowering form of aid we can offer.
That is why, at present, we are focusing on supporting qualified experts in legal aid and translation services by offering grants to individuals and NGOs working right at the heart of the refugee crisis.
Small NGOs are best suited to offer legal aid to overcome this protracted and complicated asylum process, as large aid organisations have become overburdened by the scale of time-urgent needs in the refugee crisis.
In 2018-19, we covered the entire operational costs of both Mobile Info Team and Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid. In the 2020-2021 academic year, we are supporting six legal aid NGOs working in four regions of Greece, and due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, we also offered an emergency fund to Kitrinos Healthcare to support their work to protect refugees in the former Moria camp from this outbreak. Read more information on our beneficiaries here, and click here for details of any grant applications which are currently open.
Asylum services were not prepared to deal with the unprecedented numbers of refugees coming to Europe in 2015. Due to political disputes and the rise of far-right rhetoric towards immigration, asylum services have since remained underfunded and understaffed. As a result of this, asylum seekers currently in Greece can expect to wait until 2022 for their asylum interview. This interview is of paramount importance to an asylum seeker, as it will determine whether they can remain in that country or not.
Thousands of vulnerable people have to live in camp conditions for over a year awaiting their asylum interviews, and this is the best case scenario. Given that the camps reached capacity years ago, a large portion of the refugee population is currently homeless, sleeping in abandoned buildings and parks. Such desperate situations have led to an increase in violence, drug abuse and prostitution. No one should have to suffer this long in legal limbo, and in such troubling conditions.
Living in a refugee camp is untenably difficult. Conditions are unsanitary, overcrowded and are often met with a lack of basic supplies, such as clothes. Pressurised circumstances and untreated trauma often leads to violence, drug abuse and further mental health difficulties. As asylum seekers currently in Greece can expect to be interviewed in 2022, thousands of vulnerable people must live in these conditions for over a year.
(Right: Conditions of Moira Camp (Lesvos), August 2019)
In 2019, 62% of asylum applications in Europe were completely rejected.
Asylum seekers homeless due to overcrowding of camps, Thessaloniki, August 2019
Camps are riddled with misinformation. Rumours spread quickly and asylum seekers are not advised on their legal rights. Given the scale of the crisis, government services are rarely able to respond quickly enough, and donors are becoming fatigued by the lack of improvement in the crisis.
Legal aid NGOs offer the legal guidance that refugees require in order to successfully make their asylum case. Improved legal guidance speeds up the asylum process and dispels false rumours, meaning that refugees can leave camps quicker. Crucially, it ensures that highly vulnerable individuals are granted the safety and security that they might not otherwise reach.
The European Refugee Crisis
2015 saw the largest refugee crisis on European soil since WWII. The mass influx of refugees has seen divided global politics, with outpourings of generosity and controversy towards refugees. This timeline shows just how the crisis has been shaped since 2015.
Ezadeen incident sees 450 Syrian refugees abandoned in Mediterranean
European Council agree to relocate 40,000 refugees from Italy and Greece to other EU Member States and to take 20,000 refugees from outside the EU.
In one day only, 4,400 migrants are rescued off the coast of Libya
Angela Merkel's 'Wir schaffen das' - there will be no limits on the number of asylum seekers taken in by Germany
Germany introduces temporary controls on border with Austria.
120,000 refugees to be relocated in EU
Just under 1,250 asylum seekers die in the Mediterranean. After this, deaths in the Mediterranean continue steadily.
Hungary begins to build a barrier along its border with Serbia to stem flow of asylum seekers into the country.
71 asylum seekers, including 4 children, are found dead in an abandoned lorry in Austria - they are believed to have died from suffocation
Death of Alan Kurdi
Croatia closes off majority of its borders with Serbia.
Austria, Sweden and Macedonia introduce border controls.
Afghan man shot dead by Bulgarian border guard.
UNHCR reports that 1 million refugees had reached Europe by sea in 2015.
100 black-clad masked men attack immigrants at Stockholm Central Station.
Both Austria and Norway break international and EU law. Austria announces that it will set a daily cap on the number of asylum seekers allowed to enter the country, and will limit daily asylum claims. Norway says they will reject all asylum seekers coming to the country.
French authorities start to demolish part of the 'Calais Jungle'.
Clashes at Idomeni refugee camp on Greece-Macedonia border result in 200 asylum seekers and 15 police officers being injured.
Locals protest against establishment of a screening centre; protests see petrol bombs thrown against police officers. Meanwhile, Turkey threatens to send millions of asylum seekers into Europe unless Turkey receives further funding to host the millions already in the country
Two Pakistani asylum seekers try to publicly hang themselves in Athens.
EU-Turkey deal: irregular migrants will be sent back to Turkey. Each Syrian sent back to Turkey will be replaced by a Syrian refugee resettled in the EU.
906 refugees are picked up off Libyan coast in one day.
Two-year-old Mawda is shot dead by Belgian police as they were chasing a van carrying an asylum seeker.
Sara Mardini, a Syrian refugee who saved 18 asylum seekers by swimming and pulling along their waterlogged dingy to Lesvos, is arrested for her work, along with co-volunteer Sean Binder, with a search and rescue NGO.
Tajoura detention centre, where many aslyum seekers attempting to cross to Europe had been sent back to, is hit by an air strike. 53 are killed; 130 are injured. Questions are raised about the EU's policy of cooperating with militias to detain migrants and training the Libya Coast Guard which sends refugees back.
CNN footage shows asylum seekers being sold at slave auctions in Libya
Italy and Malta both deny entry to the NGO ship Aquarius. The ship has 629 people on board, including 7 pregnant women, 11 small children, and 123 unaccompanied minors.
Italy says it will reject all foreign navy, as well as Frontex ships, which have boarded refugees at sea.
European statistics office estimates that close to 900,000 asylum seekers in the EU are waiting for their claims to be processed.
UK government drops promise to replace the EU law that allows child refugees in Europe to reunite with their parents.
Number of people who have crossed English Channel in small boats in 2020 passes 5,000. UK Home Secretary Priti Patel says the government is working to make the route ‘unviable’, and blames ‘activist lawyers’ for frustrating deportations.
Fires destroy Moria camp, leaving thousands of people without shelter.
A fire breaks out at Vathy refugee camp on the island of Samos, which also suffers an earthquake a few days later.
Italian coastguard find the bodies of twelve people off the coast of Lampedusa. They drowned when a boat carrying fifty asylum seekers capsized.
February - March 2020
Turkey stops preventing people from crossing into Europe. Refugees and asylum seekers attempting to enter Greece are met with tear gas, water cannons, and stun grenades.
Mass quarantine is imposed on Moria camp, despite warnings the camp is too overcrowded for social distancing, and that sanitation is insufficient. People in at-risk categories are not evacuated from the camp.
Four people, including two young children aged five and eight, die whilst attempting to reach Britain by boat across the Channel.
What exactly does your money achieve?
We chose to support Mobile Info Team and Fenix in 2018-19 because they're effective, efficient and sustainable. Here's how your money helps:
Mobile Info Team
£4.50 pays for a volunteer translator in Greece for the day, who sees 30-40 individuals per day.
£13.50 pays for a full time volunteer caseworker in Greece for the day, who sees 20-30 individuals per day.
Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid
£1,000 pays for a foreign attorney to join the team full time for a month
£20 pays for all of the long term volunteers' accommodation for one night
£300 pays for a Greek attorney to join the team for a week