NOAS’ Information and Counselling Program
NOAS runs an information and counselling program directed at newly arrived asylum seekers. We provide information on the topics of the asylum process, criteria for protection and additional rights and responsibilities.
Reasons for implementing the program
On 1 January 2005, the system that ensured asylum seekers free legal aid in first instance, that is, before asylum seekers receive a decision from the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI), was replaced with the information and counselling program that NOAS runs, on commission from the UDI. The legal basis for this program is found in the Immigration Regulations § 145, letter a, third paragraph. It states that asylum seekers “have the right to free legal aid without the need of proof, if a negative decision is made by the UDI, cf § 42, third paragraph” (our translation), and that those who does not have the right to free legal aid “should be offered individual counselling from an independent organisation” (our translation). What kind of information and counselling that is given is outlined in the UDI’s circular letter 060 from 2004 (2004-060 ASA):
“The asylum seeker [shall] be given information about the processing of asylum cases, and if necessary the Dublin Regulation, rights and duties, how to fill out the self-declaration form, the asylum interview, an offer of age examination for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers, the possibility for getting their application granted, the loss of the right to accommodate at a reception centre upon receiving a negative decision and return to the home country.” (our translation)
Other actors should also give information, including the police, the reception centre and the UDI, but NOAS has, after a competitive tender in 2004, the primary responsibility for ensuring that asylum seekers get information in the first stage of the application process.
Why does NOAS run this program?
We argue that ensuring that the right information and counselling are given to asylum seekers by an organisation asylum seekers have confidence in, will contribute to justice for asylum seekers. This is NOAS’ starting point for running this programme. In addition, NOAS also works to ensure that asylum applications are made as clear as possible, so that the immigration authorities have a better basis for making the right decisions.
NOAS runs the program in accordance with the project’s requirements, as outlined in the contract between NOAS and the UDI. In the contract it is emphasized that “NOAS is not required to give information that is contrary to NOAS’ statutes and purposes” (our translation).
How is the information conveyed?
The pedagogical concept involves communicating the necessary information through three different channels:
- Audio-visual information (movie)
- Written information (brochure)
- Individual counselling (conversation)
The information is provided in a language the asylum seeker understands well.
The movie should give an overview of the process in an asylum case, and situations asylum seekers can recognize later on.
The brochure includes the same information as the movie. The asylum seekers get to keep the brochure.
The movie and the brochure are translated to over 20 different languages. These languages cover almost all languages spoken by asylum seekers coming to Norway.
After presenting the movie, all asylum seekers are offered an individual counselling session with an advisor from NOAS. The purpose of the conversation is to ensure that the general and most important information is understood by the asylum seeker, as well as adjusting the information and counselling to each individual asylum seeker. We use approximately 40 minutes for each conversation, but the duration is adjusted in accordance with the individual’s needs. Most conversations with asylum seekers are carried out without an interpreter as the advisors in the program master the most common languages among asylum seekers coming to Norway.
NOAS’ experiences so far:
Our experience is that the combination of the movie, the brochure and the individual counselling sessions function well. The research organisation SINTEF published an evaluation report in the autumn of 2005 which includes NOAS’ information and counselling programme. Feedbacks from both users and SINTEF are mainly positive. In general, asylum seekers are satisfied with the information they receive from NOAS and they have great confidence in NOAS as an independent organisation.