Migrants seeking asylum in Paris will be able to receive free legal aid from students at the prestigious Professional Bar School through a program set to begin next week. The students will help with tasks such as writing up statements, and preparing for interviews with the refugee office or for court hearings. The initiative is aimed as much at providing vulnerable migrants with essential legal help, as it is at sensitizing the country’s future lawyers to the situation of asylum seekers.
From February 16, students enrolled at the Professional Bar School of Paris will offer free consultancy and legal services to asylum seekers, to help them prepare for their Ofpra (French Office for the Protection of Refugees) and National Asylum Court (CNDA) processes.
Every Saturday, a total of eight migrants will have the possibility to meet one of the students, accompanied by a referred lawyer, to get one hour of legal advice. The purpose of the meeting is to help the asylum seekers to write up their statements, or prepare them for their upcoming interviews with Ofpra agents, or CNDA court hearings.
Volunteer translators will make it possible for the migrants to explain their situation in their own language, be it Arabic, Dari, Pashto, Kurdish, Turkish, Creole or Haitian.
To take part, you need to register either online here, or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), specifying your preferred language, country of origin, and the areas in which you need help. The meetings will be held in Paris’ 18th arrondissement.
Sensitizing the asylum rights lawyers of tomorrow
The free service is expected to benefit the many asylum seekers in need of legal advice, but it is also seen as important in training France’s future lawyers. "We’ve noted a lack of awareness within our profession when it comes to asylum rights, and there are ultimately very few lawyers specialized in the field," explained Sarah Abdel Salam, the initiator of the project.
Some of the students taking part in the project are already specializing in rights of non-resident foreigners at the bar school, while others are focused on business but wish to learn more about asylum law. "Not everyone is looking for a career in migrants' rights, but (some) want to be able to volunteer and help refugees on the side of their specialization," Sarah Abdel Salam said.
The project is already very popular among students: More than 200 have signed up to participate this year.
Other legal services available in France:
There are several legal clinics offered by regular law students in France. Please see our non-exhaustive list of legal services provided by students specializing in asylum and foreigners' rights:
In and around Paris: