During detention in public custody centres, asylum seekers have all the rights set out in the Asylum Act, except for those concerning the right to access employment, right to accommodation in the Regional Centres and reimbursement for travel costs. As a consequence, detained asylum seekers have the same rights to legal assistance as those at liberty.
Legal assistance for asylum seekers in detention is provided by CNRR through the project “Specialized legal assistance for asylum seekers in Romania”, funded by the AMIF national programme. According to CNRR, if the detained asylum seekers express their wish to be counseled before the interview, a CNRR legal advisor will provide the necessary assistance. In this case, the interested asylum seeker refers to the management of the centre and the latter informs CNRR and the legal counsellor will go to the detention centre. CNRR also confirmed, that legal counselling is provided upon request at every stage of the procedure.
In Arad, legal counselling is ensured by the legal counsellor of Timișoara, according to CNRR. However, CNRR reported there were no asylum claims made by forerigners detained in Arad or Bucharest in 2022. In practice asylum seekers were relying on the information received from other detainees. This was also confirmed by the interviewed detainees who reported that they were not counselled by any NGO on asylum applications or subsequent applications, and that they were relying on the information provided by other detainees or police officers.
CNRR reported that, IGI informs CNRR Bucharest by email when an asylum application is made. The representative of Arad centre said they inform the CNRR representative working in the centre if an asylum claim is made, because while the detainee is an asylum seeker, he/she cannot benefit from the services provided under the project implemented. The director of Timişoara centre said they inform the legal counsellor in Timişoara if an asylum claim was made from the detention centre, but not every time. Nevertheless, it seems that the communication between IGI and CNRR was flawed in 2021 and as well as in 2022 because, CNRR reported that there were no asylum requests made in detention centres in 2022, even though the representative of Arad centre reported 92 asylum applications.
Therefore, no appeals were drafted by CNRR in 2021 and 2022. According to the director of Timişoara centre, all appeals were lodged by the applicants. He also noted that detained asylum seekers are not counselled by anyone before the interview and none of the appeals were admitted by the court.
As regards asylum seekers in Otopeni centre, the representatives of the centre stated that they are counselled before the interview by CNRR, as they inform the NGO if an asyum claim is made via email, and that appeals are drafted by CNRR. Two of the detainees interviewed by the author in Otopeni stated they drafted the appeal in English and French respectively and they only discussed it with the CNRR counselor after sumbmitting the appeals.
The lack of proper counselling in Otopeni detention centre was also emphasized by a lawyer. The lawyer reported that clients of hers detained in Otopeni were not counselled in relation to their right to make an asylum claim, had no knowledge of the asylum procedure. One of her clients, detained in Otopeni, was not aware that he had the right to make an asylum application in Romania and that Romania is part of the EU. As a consequence, he made an asylum claim after a few months, when he learned more about it from other detainees. The detainee also reported to his lawyer that he was not counselled before the interview by anyone; the interview was very brief, so brief that he was of the opinion that a next interview would follow. He also stated that the officer focused on general information and his family’s problems, he did not have the chance to talk about his problems from the country of origin. Another client of the lawyer interviewed by the author made 2 subsequent requests without any information on the conditions and grounds for admitting such a request. He received no assistance for filling in the form.
Asylum interviews were held through videoconference with case officers from Timișoara and Tudor Gociu centre. The court hearings were held in person and online in Bucharest and in person for detainees in Arad.
It is more difficult or even impossible for asylum seekers to contact the legal counsellors or attorneys in due time in order to prepare and/or assist them for the personal interview. They are made aware of their rights and obligation as asylum seekers only at the interview conducted by the IGI-DAI case officer. There is no legal counsellor providing legal counselling to asylum seekers in detention who works in the centre on a daily basis. Lawyers cannot contact their clients by phone, as the detainees are not allowed to have personal phones in detention and may only use their phone upon request if it has no camera. Lawyers may only access them if they visit them or if the clients have free minutes left to talk on the phone. Meetings are held in private rooms.
 Article 19^16(2) Asylum Act.
 Information provided by CNRR, 15 February 2022.
 Information provided by CNRR, 7 February 2023.
 Information provided by CNRR, 15 February 2022.