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Law students help immigrants and gain experience and jobs

They provide direct legal assistance to asylum applicants in the reception centre in Zastávka u Brna.

Immigrants and granting asylum have only become the focus of public attention in the recent months, but the MU Faculty of Law has been teaching refugee law for more than ten years. Thanks to a legal clinic programme, law students enrolled in the master's programme learn what foreigners really need and how to help them.

“At the beginning, we were assigned a fictitious case of a Syrian applicant for international protection that we worked on during the whole two semesters," explains Stanislava Sládeková, one of the past participants in the Legal Clinic of Refugee Law course. However, the students quickly move from theoretical assignments to practice.

During the whole academic year, they provide direct legal assistance to asylum applicants in the reception centre in Zastávka u Brna. In this way, they provide real help and learn a lot at the same time. Everything is done under the supervision of the course teachers, who give feedback and theoretical background to the students.

“At the moment, NGOs do not get any money from the government to provide counselling to asylum applicants, so the NGO counselling visits are quite infrequent, for example once a month. This is why we decided to go to the centre in Zastávka u Brna with our students regularly every week," explains Hana Lupačová, the course teacher, and adds: “Many students become so interested in the topic that they later find a job in this area."

“In the Zastávka centre, I had direct contact with people who were waiting for the decision on their asylum application. Seeing the stories of these people in real life was a very useful experience," says Veronika Sedláková, another past participant in the course.

“I remember two brothers from Libya who were waiting to be granted asylum and wanted to stay in the Czech Republic, but were to be moved to Germany. They were incredibly nice and friendly and very grateful for every bit of help, even though they were quite disappointed that they had to leave in the end," says Sedláková and adds that the course gave her not only a new perspective on the whole situation, but also a job that she still does today.

Sára Dagmar Norková, a future lawyer, also shares her experience: “For example, I was assigned a case of a client who had questions regarding citizenship. Later, we had a mock trial where we tried to make arguments before the court and prepare individual asylum applications. This was very helpful for me, as this is something I now do as a part of my job."

Stanislava Sládeková is one of the participants who completed the course some time ago, before refugee crisis became the topic of the day. “For example, we gave advice to a man from Syria who had already been granted asylum and was waiting to be reunited with his family. For me, it was one of the most useful courses that I attended at the faculty."

The course is taught by experts from various external institutions, such as court employees or lawyers working for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. According to Hana Lupačová, they are glad that such course exists.

“They know that people in these facilities have a very limited idea about their own rights and options. The problem is that there is not only a lack of legal advisers, but also a lack of interpreters. We are now trying to find them in cooperation with the MU Centre for International Cooperation," she concludes.