Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela · 25 September, 2020

Latin American public defenders develop legal assistance model in the context of human mobility

The European Union EUROsociAL+ Programme, through its Governance Area in FIIAPP, and the Inter-American Association of Public Defenders have presented a regional diagnosis analysing the legal needs of people in a situation of mobility, which will involve the creation of a regional network to legally assist this particularly vulnerable population group.

The EUROsociAL+ Programme of the European Union and the Inter-American Association of Public Defenders (AIDEF) have been working for months to develop a regional model for legal assistance for people in a situation of mobility (migrants and refugees) as a first step towards subsequently creating a regional network to allow the different public defender’s offices in the region to legally assist these people.

The particular situation of exclusion and the vulnerability of these groups requires special attention to improve the defence and enforcement of their rights. This led to the birth of this project at the end of 2019, which within AIDEF has been jointly promoted by the Public Defender of the Union of Brazil and the Chilean Public Penal Defender.

The initiative includes two phases: a first regional diagnosis phase and a second phase to develop the regional model and create the network. The diagnostic phase was carried out during the first half of 2020 and involved field visits to several countries in the region, including Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica and Mexico.

This was done to identify the existing defence and legal assistance services and to examine the way in which services are provided to the different users. In this action, special attention is being paid to the situation of migrants in border areas, with field visits to the border area between Brazil and Venezuela (Operation Reception in Boa Vista and Paracaima) and the northern and southern borders of Mexico.

Presentation of the diagnosis
Juan Jiménez Mayor and Noemí Alarcón Velasco, EUROsociAL+ experts, carried out this study, an in-depth analysis of the legal needs of people in a situation of mobility and the services currently provided by public defenders in the region (see study Access to Justice for People in a Context of Human Mobility)

The document was presented and debated during a virtual session attended by representatives of the public defenders in Latin America and more than 100 participants, and at which important contributions were collected that have allowed the final version of the study to be enriched.

The aim is to define a regional model, based on the legal needs of migrants, that specifies the defence mechanisms they require and then creates, within the AIDEF, a regional network of legal assistance for migrants from the public defender offices that make up this association.

Commenting on this initiative, the National Defender, Andrés Mahnke, explained that the Chilean public defence has strongly promoted the project, based on the experience acquired in the specialised defence of these people.

“International human rights regulations protect the rights of migrants in particular detail, which implies that States acquire special obligations to that effect. This has to do with the fact that migration puts the person in a greater condition of vulnerability, because it is also often associated with issues of poverty or even political persecution, in a context in which the person does not have any type of roots or support networks. Thus, what we seek is for this model to guide the way in which the region’s public defences will comply with these international obligations, which seek to improve access to justice for this population group”.

The Federal Public Defender-General of the Public Defender’s Office of the Union of Brazil (DPU), Dr. Gabriel Faria Oliveira, stressed that:

“The work carried out by the EUROsociAL+ experts to draw up the Regional Diagnosis and Compilation of Good Practices for Legal Assistance to People in a Context of Human Mobility, in close cooperation with the federal defenders of the DPU who are members of the Working Group on Migration, Statelessness and Refugees (GTMAR), highlighted the need to create a network for access to justice for this population in the region, considering the different institutional characteristics of the defenders that are members of AIDEF. We hope that, with the results of this extensive work, we can advance national commitments with the migrant population, as well as promote the development of these dialogues by the Defender Offices within the scope of the AIDEF”.


Global Compact

This initiative is in line with the ‘Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration’ (Morocco, December 2018), which includes 23 goals. Goal 3 is directly related to this study, stipulating in Point d) “to provide newly arrived migrants with specific, accessible and complete legal information and guidance on their rights and obligations, with a gender perspective, sensitive to children, including compliance with national and local laws, obtaining work and residence permits, adjustment of status, registration with the authorities, access to justice to file complaints about rights violations, as well as access to basic services”.

The project is also consistent with Goal 7 of the compact, which in Point c) foresees the need to “develop migration policies with a gender perspective to address the particular needs and vulnerabilities of migrant women, girls and boys, which may include assistance, medical care, psychological services and other types of advice, as well as access to justice and effective remedies, especially in cases of violence, abuse and sexual and gender exploitation.”

Development of the model also includes the provisions stated in Point g): “to guarantee that migrants have access to independent, public or affordable legal assistance and legal representation, in judicial proceedings that affect them, including during any related judicial or administrative hearing, in order to guarantee that all migrants, anywhere, are recognized as persons before the law and that the administration of justice is impartial and non-discriminatory”.

Finally, it also incorporates what is stated in Goal 13 of the pact, which in Point d) states “to provide access to justice to all migrants in transit and destination countries who are or may be subject to detention, including facilitating access to free or affordable legal advice and the assistance of a qualified and independent lawyer, as well as access to information and the right to periodic review of an arrest warrant.”



Country: Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela
SDG: Reduced inequalities, Peace, justice and strong institutions
Policy area: Democratic governance policies