ACCESS TO JUSTICE AND LEGAL AID FOR REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS; WHAT CAN THE JUDICIARY DO?
Asylum seekers, regardless of their immigration status, are human beings, with fundamental and basic rights, needs and aspirations. Refugees and asylum seekers are a diverse group with one thing in common; they are subject to forced migration, and are fleeing from persecution in their countries of origin.
A refugee is defined as any person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality or political opinion, is outside the country of his or her nationality and is unable or owing to such fear for reasons other than personal convenience is ...view middle of the document...
It is estimated that 64% of Asylum seekers have been wrongly refused a legal aid lawyer for their asylum appeal which is one of the most critical stages in the asylum process. Often, they’re forced to deal with the complicated asylum systems on their own. Without legal support, their asylum claims can be wrongly refused. Many are then denied legal aid to appeal that decision, due to an unfair means test system. For some, the double blow leads to destitution on streets or forced removal back to the country they fled.
Majority of forced migrants live in areas with limited proximity to justice institutions and legal aid service providers. They do not have the financial, emotional and legal capacity or knowledge to adequately present their cases to the authorities and courts of law. Many are traumatized, disoriented, have limited language capacity and little or no knowledge of the justice system. There is need to bring legal aid services closer to forced migrants, build capacities of justice institutions on issues of forced migration and empower forced migrants to demand for their rights.
There is need therefor to recognize the right of asylum seekers to legal protection and especially in the most dire of cases as at this point of their lives, they are very vulnerable. The right to legal aid is a right recognized under various international instruments and also various states have incorporated in their national legislations legal aid.
Without legal aid, many refugee claimants have had to prepare their cases on their own even though they lack the legal knowledge to do so. They have had to rely on overburdened community organizations who though they have good intentions, lack legal training on refugee protection. Some of these claimants have fallen victim to unscrupulous representatives.
In cases of refugee protection, little is known of the efforts made by the judiciary to ensure access to justice and legal aid for refugees and asylum seekers. The need for the judiciary to assist in ensuring access to justice and legal aid for refugees and asylum seekers is a matter of great importance bearing in mind, that it is the same judiciary that seeks to prove legality and determines refugee status.
KENYA AND REFUGEE PROTECTION
In East Africa, socio-legal research on refugee rights identified an urgent need for permanent legal aid for refugees. As of September 2011, UNOCHA had Kenya hosting 557,430 refugees and asylum seekers. Most reside in designated camps in Kakuma and Dadaab with a sizeable amount moving to urban centers in search of better living conditions.
In Kenya the provision of access to justice and legal aid has been facilitated by RCK and UNHCR offices. RSD cases are rarely taken to court and most are handled by the UNHCR offices. The Refugee Consortium of Kenya provides legal aid clinics. The legal aid clinics advice on matters of security, SGBV, employment and asylum status among others. The legal aid embraces the evolving legal framework...