How law students in Germany are providing free advice to asylum seekers

Author: Madelaine Pitt

This article is part of Changing the Narrative. Articles in this series are written by student or early-career journalists who took part in The Local’s training course on solutions-focused migration reporting. Find out more about the project here.

Almost a million people applied for asylum in the country following Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to welcome the increased numbers of refugees fleeing war in Syria in 2015. However, refugees and asylum seekers face a long administrative process in order to submit a successful application to stay in Germany, and a lack of access to the information required further complicates matters. This is where the Refugee Law Clinic at the University of Konstanz comes in.

Founded in 2016, the Refugee Law Clinic here in the lakeside town of Konstanz, is run by law students who provide free advice to refugees and asylum seekers to help them through the complex and daunting process. Lukas Schröder, a volunteer advisor, is by now intimately familiar with the main hurdles that need to be overcome when arriving as an asylum seeker in Germany.

Emphasising that, in practice, there are many much smaller steps and criteria to be fulfilled, he explains: “The first step is to submit an Asylgesuch, an application for status as an asylum seeker. Then you would be taken to a type of communal accommodation and the Asylverfahren or asylum procedure can be lodged with the BAMF (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, or Federal Office for Migration and Refugees). A residence permit is granted for the time needed to review the application. Eventually, you would sit two interviews to examine how you came to Germany and why it was necessary to leave your home country.”

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