Legal assistance for review of detention


Country Report: Legal assistance for review of detention Last updated: 30/11/20


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The law sets out the right of asylum seekers to free legal aid under the same conditions as nationals,[1] which thus includes proceedings in front of the Criminal Court regarding detention at the border. Access to legal aid is processed under the same conditions as nationals, which include a “means test”.[2] In the context of legal aid for the purposes of appealing the rejection of the asylum application, this test is generally applied in a flexible manner. CPR has no experience with legal aid applications for the purposes of detention review, however.

Up to 2018 legal aid procedures tended to exceed 60 days, rendering assistance inefficient in the context of detention review, as the asylum seekers would usually be released from detention before the free legal aid lawyer was appointed by the Portuguese Bar Association (Ordem dos Advogados). Recently, these procedures have been reduced to 1-2 weeks which could present an opportunity for effective legal representation of asylum seekers for purposes of detention review. That being said, the current capacity of CPR to process these additional free legal aid applications at the border is very limited and while the law provides for an accelerated free legal aid procedure at the border on the basis of a MoU between the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Bar Association,[3] such procedures are only for purposes of the application and remain to be implemented to date. The relevance of broader legal support within the context of detention and the possibility of implementing specific MoUs with the Bar Association for that purpose was also underlined by the Ombudsman.[4]

In practice, asylum seekers benefit from legal information and assistance from CPR at the border, which also includes free legal assistance for the purposes of detention review, albeit limited to vulnerable asylum seekers due to capacity constraints.


[1] Article 49(1)(f) Asylum Act.

[2] Act 34/2004.

[3] Article 25(4) Asylum Act.

[4]Ombudsman, National Preventive Mechanism, Report to the Parliament 2018, 30 May 2019, available in Portuguese at:, 46-47.


Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation