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Legal Assistance Scheme for Non-refoulement Claimants

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

Annual Report 2023 > 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 2023, a total of 25,694 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). From 1 July 2022, the number of referral reduced to eight again. On 16 October 2023 onward, the number of daily intake increased to nine.

4.5 There are 601 active duty lawyers participating in the Legal Assistance Scheme for Non-refoulement Claimants (Appendix A-5) which comprises 397 Barristers and 204 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 2023, the Legal Assistance Scheme for Non-refoulement Claimants has received and taken up a total of 25,694 claims from the Immigration Department. Of the 25,694 claims received:

  1,802 Non-refoulement claims were withdrawn
  22,661 Non-refoulement claimants filed questionnaires in support of their torture claims
  21,928 Non-refoulement claimants attended screening interview accompanied by duty lawyers
  22,022 Non-refoulement claimants received determination of claim from the Immigration Department
  5,337 Non-refoulement claimants applied for extension for the filing of Questionnaire
  267 Non-refoulement claimants declined assistance from the Duty Lawyer Service
  1,383 Non-refoulement claimants cannot be located or contacted for instructions

4.7 The Duty Lawyer Service has lodged a total of 1,890 appeal/petitions upon the advice of duty lawyers.

4.8 The Duty Lawyer Service has 135 successful cases involving 253 claimants with their Non-refoulement Claims being substantiated, 48 of which are delivered by the Immigration Department at Tier 1 and 87 of which are delivered by the Torture Claims Appeal Board at Tier 2.

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