Launching ANRLA, a legal support network for refugees that will work to guarantee the right to asylum in the Americas

24/04/2018

This April 25 in Costa Rica the Americas Network for Refugees Legal Aid in the Americas will (ANRLA) will be officially launched.

San Jose , Costa Rica April 24, 2018 - "Obtaining protection in another State seemed like facing a mountain without tools or shoes," said Maria, a Salvadorian refugee in Costa Rica. Maria left her country to save her life after receiving threats from the maras. Upon arriving in Costa Rica, she faced administrative procedures to achieve what someone had indicated as the right to receive asylum. Words that she had never heard before.

Like Maria, in recent years, the number of people who were forced to flee their homes due to unprecedented situations of persecution, conflict and violence, to seek asylum with the authorities designated for that purpose has increased radically in the Americas. Sometimes, these people face a well-articulated asylum system in the host country with strict procedures and / or in any case for what constitute very complex procedures for them, so much so that may seem to be inaccessible. This perception is mainly due to a lack of advice and / or legal aid.

In order to respond in a more appropriate manner to the needs of these people and achieve efficient and quality international protection, it was necessary to implement a regional strategy in conjunction with civil society actors. In May 2017, the regional meeting "Building the Americas Network for Refugees Legal Aid in the Americas" (RALRA) was convened with 38 organizations from the region. After a year of intense consultations, coordination and preparations, finally the official launch of this support network will take place at the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights on April 25 in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Mr. José Thompson, Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, stated the following: "In due recognition of the seriousness of the effects that must be borne by those who have been forced to leave their homes, the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights supports and promotes any initiative that aims to improve the protection of the human rights of this population, who is in a state of vulnerability".

ANRLA's mission is to promote and defend effective access to rights for all asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, returnees and refugees from the region. To fulfil this mission, the Network is structured around four pillars: The first is capacity development in International Refugee Law and Human Rights through the creation of dedicated chairs, seminars or specialized courses aimed at forming a new generation of lawyers specialized in these issues.

The second pillar relates to comparative research based not only on publications to disseminate international refugee law but also offering different perspectives in new areas of legal development and interpretation.

The third pillar is strategic litigation, through which it seeks to promote, coordinate and facilitate the judicial review of cases in order to improve or create new national and regional standards in matters of international protection of refugees.

Finally, the fourth and last pillar is about legal support divided into three categories: counselling, orientation and representation. Through these elements, ANRLA seeks to facilitate access to the refugee status determination (RSD) procedures and to ensure that people of interest are more informed about their legal rights.

"The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) applauds this initiative of coordination and support for people of concern in the region, and encourages all kinds of alliances among the actors that can contribute concretely to this effort, in all sectors of society "- said Marco Formisano, the regional officer in charge of asylum issues and RSD for UNHCR.

María was fortunate to receive advice and legal assistance from HIAS in Costa Rica. "It is a great satisfaction for HIAS to help people of interest to understand the scope of the asylum and assist them throughout the refugee status determination process, providing them with diligent and timely legal advice." - said Kathya Araya, Country Representative of HIAS Costa Rica, one of the founding entities of ANRLA.

ANRLA has a web page (www.ralra.org), which offers a space for dialogue and exchange of ideas and information through a Blog and a "Refugee Alert" space in which members of the Network signal protection alerts for asylum seekers, refugees, internally displaced persons, and returnees in vulnerable conditions. ANRLA is accessible both by people of interest and by civil society actors who want to contribute by enriching the Network and joining forces in a spirit of humanitarian collaboration to ensure the respect the human rights of all people in need of protection.