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Legal Assistance Scheme for Non-refoulement Claimants

DLS’ Official Response to Media Reporting
Application procedures for inclusion in the Master Part-time Freelance Interpreters’ Lists

Annual Report 2021 > 4. Legal Assistance Scheme for Non-refoulement Claimants

4.1 The Legal Assistance Scheme for Non-refoulement Claimants provides legal representation and advice to claimants who have lodged non-refoulement claims under the Unified Screening Mechanism in respect of the following risks:

  (a) Torture risk under Part VIIC of the Immigration Ordinance. Cap.115. Laws of Hong Kong,
  (b) Risk to a person’s right to life and Risk of Torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under Articles 2 and 3 of Section 8 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance. Cap.383. Law of Hong Kong, and/or
  (c) Risk of persecution with reference to the non-refoulement principle under Article 33 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

With effect from 12 September 2016, the Immigration Department has started referring claimants back to the Duty lawyer Service in relation to claims on Article 2 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights (“BOR2”).

4.2 Our scope of service under this Scheme includes:-
  (a) Assisting claimants under the Legal Assistance Scheme for Non-refoulement Claimants in articulating and advancing the relevant grounds and particulars of their non-refoulement claim by giving advice and assistance in completion of the relevant claim form(s);
  (b) Ensuring timely and complete submissions made by the claimant within the specified time limit;
  (c) Accompanying claimant to attend interview(s), if considered necessary by the Duty Lawyer;
  (d) Assessing merits of appeals and/or petitions;
  (e) For appeals and/or petitions considered meritorious by the Duty Lawyer, preparing submissions for the claimant and representing the claimant at oral hearing, if any;
  (f) For cases considered meritorious by the Duty Lawyer, assisting the claimant in making a request to re-open a non-refoulment claim or to make a subsequent claim by providing sufficient evidence in writing to satisfy an immigration officer in accordance with the applicable procedures set out by the Director of Immigration; and
  (g) Preparing submissions for the claimant in an objection notice on revocation of immigration officer’s pervious decision to accept non-refoulement claim or Torture Claims Appeal Board’s previous decision to reverse decision rejecting non-refoulement claim.

4.3 Claimants under the Legal Assistance Scheme for Non-refoulement Claimants applying for legal assistance have to make statutory declaration that they are without means to pay the cost for legal representation before they are eligible for assistance. This service is also completely free of charge. Up to 2021, a total of 22,922 claims were handled.

4.4 The number of daily intake under the Legal Assistance Scheme for Non-refoulement Claimants grew from two when it commenced operation in 2009 to four (on 12 July 2010), six (on 7 June 2011), seven (on 7 September 2012), eight (on 8 October 2012), nine (transitional) (on 7 April 2014), 10 (transitional) (on 15 April 2014), 11 (transitional) (on 2 May 2014), 11 (on 15 April 2015) and 13 (on 24 August 2015). The daily intake was scaled down to four (on 12 November 2018), but was increased to eight (on 16 February 2021) and 11 (on 15 November 2021).

4.5 There are 647 active duty lawyers participating in the Legal Assistance Scheme for Non-refoulement Claimants (Appendix A-5) which comprises 436 Barristers and 211 Solicitors who have more than three years post qualification experience and have also undergone the relevant training programmes organized by the Hong Kong Academy of Law and the Bar Association

4.6 As stated in 4.3 above up to 31 December 2021, the Legal Assistance Scheme for Non-refoulement Claimants has received and taken up a total of 22,922 claims from the Immigration Department. Of the 22,922 claims received:

  1,703 Non-refoulement claims were withdrawn
  20,232 Non-refoulement claimants filed questionnaires in support of their torture claims
  19,897 Non-refoulement claimants attended screening interview accompanied by duty lawyers
  19,624 Non-refoulement claimants received determination of claim from the Immigration Department
  5,272 Non-refoulement claimants applied for extension for the filing of Questionnaire
  251 Non-refoulement claimants declined assistance from the Duty Lawyer Service
  1,337 Non-refoulement claimants cannot be located or contacted for instructions

4.7 The Duty Lawyer Service has lodged a total of 1,628 appeal/petitions upon the advice of duty lawyers.

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