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14 april 2015

Immigration (asylum) and legal aid in The Netherlands - mr Raspe


(This is a work-in-progress document. It has been years since I had to bill at a lawfirm and had to look the amounts up online so if I wrote down things incorrectly please add a comment stating what has to be changed and I can take care of that)


When an asylum-seeker arrives in The Netherlands and declares he (or she) wants to seek asylum he will be moved to a special center where his case will be processed.
Every asylumseeker is given a lawyer without having to pay for that lawyer. This has been standing practice for many many years in The Netherlands predating the Proceduredirective. He will also be able to ask assistance from a charity that helps asylumseekers, called Vluchtelingenwerk, as that has an office in all the asylumcenters (http://www.vluchtelingenwerk.nl/english). And when he is informed that his request is rejected and his appeal (most of them will try till the last resort) there will be all kind of charities (funded by the government and private funds) willing to help the failed asylumseeker return home or political activist willing to house them in a squatted building.

Let us focus on the different aspects:

1) ASYLUMPROCEDURE

Before I will explain how the legal aid is organised let me first explain briefly about the procedure.

In The Netherlands as an asylumseeker you will be given legal aid by a free barrister / lawyer. The Immigration service will interview you once about your identity and travelroute and once about your asylumstory. Your lawyer can suggest alterations in the report or send in additional info and then the Immigration Service (IND) will weigh your story. If they think it is clear you are a refugee they will give you a permit but there is also the possibility they will inform you they plan to deny the refugee status and will give you one final opportunity to explain why that would be wrong. Maybe that will result in a permit or maybe in a decision you have to leave. The asylumseeker can appeal against the decision to refuse him a asylumstatus or can leave the country. Appeals are heard by a judge from a regional court. Against that judge's decision the asylumseeker or the IND can appeal at the highest administrative court called the Raad van State. Remains the answer NO then the asylumseeker will be illegal in the Netherlands and have to leave.


2) LEGAL AID DURING THE ASYLUM PROCEDURE

2.1 THE LAWYER

The asylumseeker does not have to pay the lawyer during his first asylumrequest. That does not mean the lawyer works for free, because he or she will be paid by money provided by the government. The organisation that is in charge of that is called the Raad voor de Rechtsbijstand (Raad voor Rechtsbijstand www.rvr.org).

So for the client the lawyer seems to be a pro deo lawyer but will still generate income.

The amounts are now like as follows:
1. point is 102 euro. Bear in mind that a commercial lawyer will ask 200-350 euro pro hour

* Asylum request till end of second interview - 4 points - 408 euro
* Till "voornemen" so adjustements and corrections- 4 points - 408 euro
* Zienswijze - 4 points - 408 euro
* Appeal: 8 points - 816 euro
* Hoger beroep (Appeal at the highest administrative court) 5 points - 510 euro

But when it is the second try for the asylumseeker the lawyer will be paid a lot less:
* If the request is again denied only 2 points for the whole procedure - 204 euro
* When he wins 7 points - 714 euro

This is fairly recent regulations alterations to make the whole system less costly. And to prevent lawyers to start hopeless procedures just for the money.

Because that was a problem in the past: lawyers pretending to work for the benefit of mankind but in fact more working for a big house for themselves :). Who got filthy rich working as a pro bono / pro deo lawyer just because they took on tons of cases and spend only the minimum amount of time on each.

First the Bar Association and the government tried to halt that by allowing only a maximum amount of "Toevoegingen" as this kind of payment is called. But even with only 250 of those (250 times say 800 as it was then it would still amount to a yearly income of 200.000 euro and if people wanted they could also take on clients that paid for themselves on the side.

Nowadays they make the threshold to be able to work as an asylum pro bono lawyer more and more higher by adding requirements that lawyer has to fulfill like a minimum of studypoints he has to get by taking part in courses, to have to do a minimum amount of cases each year to gain enough experience to be called a specialist, to have the Bar coming at the office and check at random if he is doing his work as he should do and by punishing severely when client complain at the Bar. Same for lawyers who work for people placed in alien detention.

Apart from that they are giving less money to lawyers for their cases.

This has the effect that the gold-diggers quit. But it has also the side effect that the real committed lawyers who spend a lot of hours on a case are hardly able to prevent bankruptcy.


2.2 VLUCHTELINGENWERK

When we go to their own website www.vluchtelingenwerk.nl they will introduce themselves to you:

"With more than 6.000 volunteers and 600 paid employees we offer refugees practical support during their asylum procedure and their integration in the Dutch society. In addition, we provide members of the Parliament with information concerning refugee issues and policy and we carry an active lobby for refugee rights. Another important part of our work is to supply information and advice to asylum lawyers. We also develop various projects to promote the integration of refugees in the Netherlands. Furthermore, we are committed to increasing public support for refugees.
Our organisation

With one National Office, 12 regional offices, and 310 local branches we are active in 90% of all local council districts. The National Office supports the regional and local branches with advice, education, and information.

Our international activities


The Dutch Council for Refugees, wanting the best for refugees not only in the Netherlands but also in other countries, aims to share its knowledge and experience with NGOs in other countries, particularly the countries at the external borders of the EU.
Vluchtelingenwerk is a charity and is paid for by grants of the government, lottery funds, churches and private donors.

For lots of refugees they are the shoulder to cry on, to translate letters, to call their lawyers etc.

There is one risk involved: their volunteers and also their paid staff are not trained lawyers most of the time so very rarely a volunteer will give the wrong legal advice that will backfire for the refugee.

3 ) REJECTED ASYLUM SEEKERS

When someone's request is rejected he or she has to leave the country on his or her own. There is no paid legal aid to help with that! But there are many organisations (charities funded by donors and the government)who will offer help with that for free and there is the IOM.  


4) ILLEGALS

When someone refuses to leave after he has become illegal he runs the risk that he will get caught and put in alien detention.

Every illegal put in a "Habeas Corpus" procedure will be given free legal representation by a barrister. Even when the illegal aliens wants to he can have a lawyer sitting in at his interviews at the police station. That was not even possible for criminals.

That barrister (cannot be a solicitor) will receive the full 816 euro for the first appeal. But if the alien looses he can appeal again and again to make sure the government will keep his procedure on track and is working hard to get him deported. In the past that was a lawyers goldmine as the whole appeal would involve a short letter and most cases were not even having a courthearing. Nowadays that letter will only grant a fee of 102 euro. And a lot less people are placed in alien detention anyways. So lawyers who specialised in these kind of cases are facing bad weather.

5) REGULAR IMMIGRATION CASES

When someone for instance asks for a permit to come and study in The Netherlands or be reunited with a spouse all legal costs have to be paid by that person themselves.

If the request is denied the alien can appeal. In case that person and his Dutch connection earn not enough money they can have a subsidised lawyer. It means they have to pay a part themselves of his fee and the rest is free. But that is when you only have very low income. Everyone else just has to pay and pay and those legal fees can be quite steep. But it is not an obligation to have a lawyer so many people will try their own luck.

6) KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

When a lawyer does not have to look things up because he already knows them by head he will work a lot more efficient. So it is for his own benefit too to be an educated lawyer. And of course for his clients.

Universities and institutes offer all kind of courses in which lawyers take part also partly because they need to get that certain amount of study-points each year.

The Raad voor Rechtsbijstand also orders them to be a member of a Werkgroep and have a subscription to certain magazines. In these days of internet there are all kind of services available online like databanks. However all those can be quite pricy.

But some also offer knowledge on internet for free. And all the court-rulings that matter according to the judges themselves are published online.


Hier te vinden op Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/asylum-netherlands-legal-aid-wytzia-raspe





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