Green light – An artistic workshop
Shared larning I Why legal consultancy actually helps

The atmosphere in the auditorium was quote tense today. 

The participants, who were present today gathered within the auditorium and closed the curtain behind them.

When it comes to applying for the status of asylum, there are many structural aspects you need to cope with. These structural challenges can decide over, whether you get official papers or not. 

Legal Consultancy can and must first off all inform about rights and obliagtions of course. 


Importance of interconnection 

In Italy asylum seekers from certain countries are granted residence permit for six months, in which they are also allowed to work. But sometimes the plain right is not enough. Most of the participants of Green light don't have a job, because they don't get a job and not because they are denied the right to have a job. They don't get jobs, because they have no references, because they don't speak Italian so well and because the tendence of the job market within a national state is basically to prefer employers with citizenships . But the main reason is, that people, who just arrive in a country, all alone, they don't know anybody. They can not connect to the existent society and the opportunities and benefits, that can arise if you know (anybody).

Robert Putnam, political scientist and Malkin Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government focuses his research on stressing the importance of social capital, not only for one individuum, but for the functioning of a whole society. 

It is not enough only to have social networks, you also must be able to activate them. Social networks, friends, family members, and relationships that are based on trust relieve social systems immensly. People who connect with many different other people don't get sick so often. They times of unemployment don't leave as much their marks and normal tragedies of life, that must eventually happen, or the loss of precious people are being overcome easier. If social structures function, markets become more flexible, and the ratio for participating in democratic and civic engagements also rises. 

The whole idea of democracy is based on different other premises, that must be fulfilled.  To create or at least accept environments, where people are isolated, unconnected and unseen can not be part of a democratic system. The democratic system is just defective then. 

Some of the participants of Green light  got their first negative answers already, and apllied for appeal. When they asked, what they could do, the counter question was, if they have had a personal meeting with their lawyers. Almost all of them said no. 

Again it became apparent, how important a personal interconnection is. People, who apply for asylum should at least meet their lawyers in personal, otherwise their names and cases get lost in a pile of files, and the indvidual becomes only a number for the lawyer in charge. 

Due to the maxim of trust in relationships lawyers must get the opportunity to meet their clients, to get a feeling for the person behind the client, so that they can defend the individual properly. Every asylum seeker has a specific and individual case. The case is a compund of very personal experiences, where family issues, socioeconomic and political issues are mingled most of the time. Therefore it is very important to distinguish between informations, that are relevant for the procedure for granting the right of asylum. A premise for distingushing and analysing the background of an asylum seeker is trust. And trust only can be established through direct contact. 

Information doesn't equal information 

Furthermore the participants had the chance to discuss their experiences with each others. They advised each other and shared experiences with different NGOs, lawyers and translators. 

The translator is - in fact - a crucial factor for the procedure of granting asylum status: He or she has to be capable to distuingish between relevant and non-relevant informations. If the translator stresses out an aspect of the case, that is relatively non-relevant, the whole case of the asylum seeker will change or at least shift. During the interview details are very important. Basically three people are sitting together during an interview. The person, who asks for asylum, must prove, that he is not lying about his case. This circumstance is a part of the asylum system, and a part of Europen security policy also. 

The other person is the interviewer, who analyzes, if the the person in front of him is telling the truth. To telling the truth during the interview means, that you must be capable to prove that the reason why you left the country makes you an aggrieved party of the Geneva Convention. 

The third person in the room is the translator - if necessary.

Usually the interview can take four to five hours. 

Usually the interviewer has no further informations about the political or societal state of the country, meaning that he is not necessarily an expert of the political state of the country the person, who is questioned, comes from. 


Clash of Cultures 

Additionally and in most of the cases it is the small things, that decide, if an asylum seeker gets a residence permit, or not: People from countries, that are mainly defined by partriarchal societies are used to be ordered or to be told, what to do. They act and speech in a more passive way, than the societies of the so-called western world is used to. In general this fact can be reshipped elegantly through sensitivity in personal intercounters, but during an interview this discrepancy can be neck-breaking. The interviewed person must open himself, completely, and be able to decide on his own, which aspects or informations are needed to be stressed, and which are not. Additionally there are still cultures in which it is frowned upon to speak about indelicate, unpleasant private issues and incidents. Especially younger asylum seeker have a hard time to adapt to the demands of the asylum system. They tend to omit the parts of their stories, that were hurtful and the main reason, why they had to leave their country behind. 

So in practice they tell a story, that is depressing enough, leaving out the most relevant informations, and they do so with a smile in their faces; and the interviewer - unaware of the reasons, the person is smiling, and used to authentic face impressions goes out of the room completely convinced, that he cought him at not telling the truth about his case. 



Most of the participants of Green light are waiting for one year or longer to get their papers. Waiting and not knowing what is going to happen in the future is the largest windmill they have to fight with. 

Experience has shown, that accompanying people who seek for asylum is a huge support. The shere presence of somebody, who speaks the language of the lawyer aswell leads to more clearness and also to more security. When the person, who applies for asylum feals more secure he can manage the obstacles in his life with more energy and more distinctiveness aswell. The shere act of accompanying raises self-security and is also a sign to them, that they are not unconnected. 



by Anahita Tabrizi, TBA21 Green ligt project