The law provides for access to free legal assistance for the review of detention before the courts, but it is hardly ever exercised in practice.1 Asylum seekers can ask the court to grant them free legal assistance, if they duly prove that they are not able to bear the costs of legal assistance, without harm to the necessary maintenance of themselves and their families.2 From 13 November 2015 the court has a clear obligation to inform asylum seekers in a language understandable to them about the right to ask for legal assistance.3 Although in practice it happens rarely. Most asylum seekers do not know about such a possibility. As a result they are dependent on legal assistance granted by NGO lawyers, most of whom are not entitled to represent them before courts. Due to limited funds from AMIF all NGOs limited theirs actions and do not visit detention centres on a regular basis to provide such assistance whenever needed.
It can be said that generally legal assistance in detention centres is not effective because of the lack of a centralised or well-managed system of granting it. NGOs pay visits to the detention centres mostly depending on the project they currently implement, which does not happened very often nowadays.
The Law amending the Law on Protection has created a state legal aid system. It includes lawyers’ visits to the detention centres if necessary and it concerns only preparing the appeal of a negative asylum decision. A State legal system for asylum seekers is planned to start operating from 1 January 2016.4 In practice only some foreigners decide to look for a legal representative, i.e. an advocate or a legal advisor.
- 1. Articles 78 and 87a Law of 6 June 1997 on the Code of Penal Proceedings, Journal of Laws 1997 no 89 position 555, available at: http://bit.ly/1UcUEO3(Ustawa z dnia 6 czerwca 1997 r. Kodeks Postępowania Karnego, Dz. U. 1997 nr 89 poz. 555).
- 2. Article 78 and 87a Code of Penal Proceedings.
- 3. Article 88b(4) Law on Protection, as amended in November 2015.
- 4. Article 69(c)-(m) Law on Protection, as amended in November 2015.