February 2002

The following article published in Legal Services Agency News Vol 2, No. 1 (February 2002) is reproduced with the kind permission of the Editor.


The Auckland Legal Aid Office has taken over responsibility for the assignment of lawyers for refugee cases in addition to making the grant decision.

While all refugees have the option of choosing their own lawyer, the agency will assign a lawyer when a refugee does not have a practitioner of their own choice.

Previously the New Zealand Immigration Service (within the Department of Labour) had a list of available lawyers for refugees.  The Agency became involved at the request of the Immigration Service when the Tampa refugees came to Auckland in September [2001].

Following the successful assignment of practitioners by the Agency in this case, the New Zealand Immigration Service requested that the Agency take over the general responsibility for assigning practitioners to refugee applicants.  The Agency agreed to this and developed the following process for the assignment of lawyers:

  • The Auckland Office retains a list of practitioners who have agreed to be assigned to detained refugee applicants.
  • Refugee Status Officers fax the Auckland Office with the specific details of each detained applicant.
  • The next practitioner on the list (which operates on a rotating basis) is contacted regarding their availability, and, if they are available, is faxed with details of the assignment and the contact details of the Refugee Status Officer.
  • The faxed assignment to the practitioner is copied to the Refugee Status Officer, who then arranges a suitable interview date with the assigned practitioner.
  • This process has been in place since October 2001 and the Agency had, by mid January, made assignments in 23 cases.  There are currently 40 practitioners on the list.

    If a lawyer wishes to be on the list, they need to be based in Auckland (as the refugee work is centred in the greater Auckland region).  They should inform the Auckland Legal Aid office that they wish to be listed and provide a resume of their experience in refugee matters.  The Auckland office will confirm placement on the list.

    This is, however, an interim process as the Provider Criteria Project is likely to develop a separate listing category for lawyers undertaking refugee work.