Refugee and Asylum Legal Support Unit

The Refugee and Asylum Legal Support Unit within the Irish Centre for Human Rights was established in April 2004 with seed funding from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. After some months of planning and consultation with many local actors in the West of Ireland, training of post-graduate and under-graduate law students began in September 2004.

The mission of the Unit is: to provide undergraduate and post-graduate law students with the opportunity to study the theoretical elements of domestic and international refugee and human rights law and to apply this theory in practice through the provision of legal research for those providing representation to asylum seekers and refugees; to help safeguard the rights and well-being of asylum seekers and refugees through the practical application of academic research; and to produce a pool of trained volunteers available to work with agencies representing asylum seekers and refugees in the State.

The Unit team is headed by Director of the Centre, Professor William Schabas, with Peter Fitzmaurice acting as manager and supervising solicitor.

Members of the Unit have also been involved with the Irish Refugee Council, the Galway Refugee Support Group and the Women’s Human Rights Alliance in providing legal training on aspects of Ireland’s new citizenship laws to asylum seekers and refugees. This has served to further strengthen the links that already existed between the Irish Centre for Human Rights and local civil society groupings.  In addition the provision of mixed classes with local practitioners has allowed students to interact with legal practitioners in this area and apply theoretical knowledge to legal practice.

The experience of the Unit has demonstrated the unmet need for specialised information for all the actors in the area of refugee law and more importantly the need for members of the refugee and asylum seeking community to receive information on the nature of their rights in Ireland and how they can access those rights.

With additional funding secured from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, the work of the Unit is set to continue and expand in the coming years.