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Right to counsel

UNHCR’s Procedural Standards for RSD under UNHCR’s Mandate

Quick reference guide

The following is a RSDWatch summary and analysis of UNHCR’s Procedural Standards for Refugee Status Determination under UNHCR’s Mandate, published by UNHCR in September 2005.  All references (i.e. section x.x) are to these Standards, unless otherwise noted.

Right to counsel

UNHCR has stressed that asylum-seekers have a right to legal counsel “at all stages of the procedure.” (UNHCR, Asylum-Processes: Fair and Efficient Asylum Procedures. para 50g, 2001). In its own RSD procedures, UNHCR’s standards allow asylum-seekers to obtain the assistance of legal representatives and advisors (section 4.3.3).

Applicants may have a legal representative accompany them to their RSD interviews provided that they submit a standard consent form. The legal representative may make brief remarks at the close of the interview. The representative should in general not interrupt the interview except in the case of “breaches of procedural fairness that could not be adequately addressed or remedied if they were raised in closing submissions” (section 4.3.3).

UNHCR does not require that representatives be accredited lawyers to participate in its RSD procedures. However, non-accredited lawyers should have a “working knowledge” of refugee law and RSD procedures, experience assisting asylum-seekers, and knowledge of the applicant’s claim (section 4.3.3). UNHCR eligibility officers may refuse a legal representative if there is “good reason to believe that the third party is not qualified, or otherwise suitable” (section 4.3.3).

UNHCR’s policy allows field offices to develop an accreditation system to regulate legal representation in UNHCR RSD procedures.

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