Halina Niec Legal Aid Center is 21 years old! This year, we're celebrating the 21st anniversary of our Center! Our association was established on May 20, 2002 with the mission of providing free legal assistance to asylum seekers and refugees, and we have been working hards towards that goal ever since!
Our greatest pride is the support we've provided during this time, specifically that over these 21 years, almost 37,300 people have received our legal assistance!
In light of this special anniversary, we want to share our activities from the past few months with you and encourage you to support our crowdfunding campaign, which will contribute to our operational budget for the coming months. Just click HERE to donate!
Activities of the Halina Nieć Legal Aid Center in the Last 12 Months
The Halina Nieć Legal Aid Center, as one of the leading organizations in Poland providing free legal assistance to refugees and asylum seekers, quickly responded to the war in Ukraine and the resulting influx of refugees to Poland, including Ukrainian citizens and individuals of other nationalities who fled the war-torn country. From the first day of Russia's attack on Ukraine, HNLAC lawyers started receiving numerous phone calls and email inquiries regarding refugee status and the possibility of stay for individuals from Ukraine in Poland.
In light of the above, in addition to their ongoing activities related to providing free legal assistance to individuals seeking international protection in Poland, HNLAC began implementing a series of new projects for people fleeing Ukraine.
Special Helpline for Individuals Fleeing Ukraine
Due to the rapidly increasing number of phone calls, messages, requests for help, and individuals seeking in-person consultations, which quickly hindered the lawyers' regular work obligations under previous projects, HNLAC sought funding from the Ukraine Solidarity Fund. This funding allowed them to hire new staff fluent in Ukrainian and Russian languages and establish a special helpline for individuals fleeing Ukraine, operating from Monday to Friday, 9 am to 3 pm. The helpline, which is still in operation, continues to receive tremendous interest. During the funded period, informational and legal support was provided to 4,300 people who called regarding issues related to the situation of individuals arriving from Ukraine.
Legal Aid Points for Individuals from Ukraine
As part of the activities funded by UNHCR, HNLAC established 12 legal aid points for individuals from Ukraine. These points are located in the following cities: Krakow, Rybnik, Wroclaw, Poznan, Sopot, Lublin, Rzeszow. HNLAC recruited a team of lawyers fluent in Ukrainian and Russian languages (mostly individuals who arrived in Poland from Ukraine after February 23, 2022) and organized points in collaboration with various institutions and organizations operating in the specified cities. At these points, HNLAC lawyers could provide free legal advice and information related to stay in Poland during designated hours (usually 9 am to 4 pm). The points are still operational, and between April 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023, support was provided to 15,400 individuals who sought assistance at the points. It should be noted that this is an absolute record in terms of the number of beneficiaries for the Center, and this period is groundbreaking in the history of our organization in every aspect.
Actions for Unaccompanied Children from Ukraine
Among those fleeing the war, a significant portion consisted of underage children traveling with close and extended family members or neighbors. To ensure the proper functioning of minors in Poland, a special law on assistance to Ukrainian citizens was adopted, which provided a simplified procedure for appointing temporary guardians. These guardians, based on court rulings, obtained a formal basis for caring for the minor and making decisions on their behalf.
HNLAC developed a special algorithm to identify unaccompanied minors and direct them to a legal support system. This involved the work of a group of pro bono lawyers and legal advisors (later, after securing funding, their activities were covered by HNLAC), who were recruited and included on a special list. These lawyers were trained by the HNLAC team. Between April 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023, collaborating lawyers and legal advisors represented candidates for temporary guardianship in 103 court proceedings, assisting 118 children and their families. In addition to legal support, HNLAC lawyers, along with collaborating translators, provided legal advice and assistance in crisis situations.
Monitoring Reception Points for Individuals from Ukraine, Informational Activities
During the reported period, the HNLAC team also conducted numerous visits to border crossings such as Medyka, Korczowa, train stations in Przemysl and Krakow, as well as locations where individuals arriving from Ukraine were accommodated in Przemysl, Korczowa, and Krakow. Informational activities about the types of assistance available at HNLAC were also conducted in these areas.
Online Information Activities
HNLAC also conducted a series of informational activities online, especially on its website, where a blog was maintained to provide updates on all current legal changes concerning individuals from Ukraine. The blog and other informational materials were regularly translated into Ukrainian and Russian languages. Additionally, informational activities were carried out on HNLAC's social media channels.
Trainings for Lawyers, Volunteers, and NGOs
Since the early weeks of the war in Ukraine, HNLAC has provided free training to dozens of legal advisors and lawyers who were subsequently involved in providing additional pro bono legal advice to refugees from Ukraine. Further trainings also included law students, totaling several hundred, who engaged in various forms of voluntary support for Ukraine. In addition, HNLAC conducted training sessions and provided legal and informational support to non-governmental organizations that undertook various actions for refugees.
Previous HNLAC Activities
Furthermore, HNLAC continued its previous activities related to legal support for individuals seeking international protection in Poland. As part of these efforts, the HNLAC team conducted 34 visits to detention centers (SOC) in Przemysl, Biala Podlaska, Bialystok, Czerwony Bor, Lesznowola, Wędrzyn, and Krosno Odrzańskie, as well as 15 visits to open centers for foreigners in Biala Podlaska, Łuków, Bezwola, Linin, and Dębaki. Legal assistance was provided to 600 individuals through these implemented actions.
HNLAC also continued its activities for individuals crossing the Polish-Belarusian border as a member of the Border Group. However, there were significantly fewer cases from the border compared to before the crisis related to the war in Ukraine.
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