Who will cover the costs for legal counselling and legal aid, and in which cases?

As long as the Federal Office (BAMF) or the Foreigners Office is still processing the asylum application, refugees – including female refu-gees who have been affected by gender-based violence – have to pay on their own for legal counselling.

In this case, however, it is possible, just as in the case of family or criminal proceedings, to apply for legal aid for extra-judicial proceedings. Still, a one-time legal aid amounting to roughly 100 € does not allow for appropriate legal represen-tation during the asylum procedure.  

Refugee support organisations, such as Pro Asyl, the German AIDS Service Organisation (Deutsche AIDS Hilfe), Reporters Without Borders and others, often subsidise the legal representation of refugees. It is also possible to consult women’s organisations on whether they can subsidise attorney fees in individual cases.

Who will cover the costs if an asylum seeker files an appeal against a rejected asylum application?

If the Federal Office (BAMF) partially or com-pletely rejects an asylum application and if an appeal against this decision is filed at the administrative court, then it is possible to apply for legal aid to cover the costs of the complaint proceedings. The approval of such legal aid depends, for one thing, on whether the person concerned is in need of it. The person thus has to prove that she does not have the necessary financial means at her disposal. For another thing, the outcome of the proceedings at least needs to be still open. The state will not cover the costs for lawyers to get involved in court proceedings that are futile from the outset.

For this reason, the administrative court will decide on whether or not to grant legal aid based on the prospects of the complaint. This kind of decision-making process is as unpredic-table as the outcome of the proceedings differs  

from court to court. Hence it is by no means possible to predict whether or not legal aid will be granted when filing a complaint.

Since the decision on granting legal aid is often made only very late during court proceedings, lawyers generally ask for a retainer and for fees  to be paid in monthly instalments, for which the client then can be reimbursed in case legal aid is granted.

During administrative court proceedings, legal representation is not obligatory. This means that the person concerned does not have be represented by a lawyer. Hence, for example, a complaint can be filed within a certain period of time at the court’s office for legal requests directly by the refugee herself. At this office, there will be court personnel who can assist with the application. Another option would be to consult an experienced circle of supporters in order to draft a sound statement for the appli-cation, so that it becomes possible to call in a   lawyer only at a later time.