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Justice Minister orders review of legal aid for asylum seekers

Finland's system of legal assistance for asylum seekers will be reviewed after changes brought in last year were criticised by lawyers, asylum seekers and human rights advocates. This year has seen a leap in the number of successful appeals against asylum decisions.

Antti Häkkänen
Image: Yle

Justice Minister Antti Häkänen says he's ordered officials to put together a report on reforms to the system of legal aid for asylum seekers.

The system was changed last year to effectively bar most specialist asylum lawyers from the initial asylum application process, forcing asylum seekers to rely on generalist legal aid practitioners.

The changes effectively also mean that most asylum seekers undergo interview without the presence of a legal advisor, as that time is no longer compensated by the government.

The changes have been strongly criticised by lawyers' groups and human rights advocates, with successful appeals against negative asylum decisions now running at record levels. The reform was intended to make legal aid more efficient, as well as easing pressure on the legal system as numbers of asylum applications leapt in 2015 and 2016.

"The exceptional events of the last few years, and subsequent changes to the regulations demand that we make a careful report on the effects of the actions," said Häkkänen in a statement.

According to Häkkänen the report was ordered before the summer, as the ministry tried to find out whether services were sufficient and whether asylum seekers could access them.

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