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Poland: Tailoring free legal aid to protect refugees and vulnerable minorities

Uncertainty and questions about documents, rights, and obligations are widespread among Ukrainian refugees and other vulnerable groups in the mixed migration flows in Europe. DRC helps people restore critical information through multiple legal aid initiatives – including in Poland and Moldova, two of the countries neighbouring Ukraine.

DRC -/ Legal aid training in Warsaw

Posted on 21 Jun 2023

Cut off from their families and friends in Ukraine, refugees hosted abroad maintain strong connections with their networks back home. They often tell DRC and partners about their wish to return and to reunite as soon as the situation allows for. While in displacement, legal aid is a core component of the assistance provided by DRC’s own lawyers and through partners in the wider networks of legal capacity. 

The Ukrainian refugees often have specific needs in a wide spectrum of issues related to the Ukrainian legal system. These include for example restoration and exchange of documents, issuance of foreign passports and ID cards, receiving birth and death certificates, granting power of attorneys, executing their housing, land and property rights, performing economic activities, paying taxes and mortgages as well as accessing health and employment records, bank accounts, pension and other social assistance. 

Responding to the increasing demand for legal aid, DRC has launched a cross-border initiative aiming to ensure a coherent and effective approach for provision of free legal aid to displaced persons across Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, and other European countries. The overall aim of DRC regional legal aid programme is to ensure that people displaced by the war in Ukraine can make informed decisions, access rights and services and pursue solutions, through timely available and high-quality legal information and assistance.  

DRC Poland, with the support of DRC Ukraine’s Legal Aid Unit, works to build a strong link between legal aid responses in the two countries. A Legal Aid training was organised on 23-24 May 2023 in Warsaw, bringing together more than 20 participants from eight Polish NGOs who partner with DRC. The event was an opportunity for Polish lawyers to better understand the Ukrainian legal system and provide respective legal aid services to persons displaced from Ukraine. 

The event allowed DRC teams in Poland, Moldova and Ukraine to further strengthen cooperation and promote synergies in the provision of cross-border legal aid including digital solutions to access a wider range of displaced persons.  

Upcoming activities are shaped around the implementation and promotion of the new Digital Legal Aid Platform - Edopomoha.org’ meaning ‘Help is there’ in Ukrainian – a dedicated virtual toolkit recently launched by the DRC Ukraine’s Legal Aid Team.  

The online platform allows people in need to access legal info and legal updates on Ukrainian and other legislations in relevant languages as well as to make a referral to free legal aid services in Ukraine and other countries. Edopomoha is a step as well to sustain networking and facilitating a community of practice among DRC staff and partner organisations, including capacity exchange, training and development of a unified knowledge base.  

Learn more about the Legal Aid Platform here: Digital innovation in Ukraine as DRC launches new Legal Aid tool | DRC Danish Refugee Council 

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