The EFRR began providing legal aid to refugees in 2008. Historically, the majority of refugee legal aid services in Egypt have been provided by non-refugees and Egyptian non-nationals. The EFRR was preceded in its work by various organisations providing legal aid related to status determination and resettlement issues. Advocating for, appealing to and liaising with the UNHCR, an international entity, was the main focus of many of the first legal aid organizations in Egypt. This was primarily because they were spearheaded and run by lawyers from outside of Egypt who were, in those cases, using international law to advocate in English for revisions to status determinations or resettlement cases. Egyptian presence in the refugee legal aid sphere remained almost non-existent for many years.
EFRR was the first legal aid programme to hire Egyptian lawyers and focus exclusively on the provision of legal representation in Egyptian government proceedings, including in judicial and administrative proceedings. It remains one of the very few organisations to maintain this focus, and is therefore uniquely positioned not only to provide legal protection to refugees who continue to be arbitrarily detained in increasing numbers, but to advocate for refugee rights over time through relying upon and thereby bolstering international and domestic laws that protect refugees.
The legal aid provided by EFRR covers three domains: (i) refugees facing arbitrary arrest, indefinite imprisonment and unlawful expulsion or refoulement; (ii) refugee victims of crime; and, (iii) refugees facing unjust prosecution for criminal acts. In recent years, the legal aid in Egyptian administrative proceedings has expanded to include matters related to housing, employment and the registration of personal status (births, marriages, divorces and deaths). In all domains of legal aid service, EFRR achieves a more than 90% rate of success.
Since early 2014, EFRR has also provided both legal aid related to international protection and psycho-social services for refugees. Both of these domains of service were transferred to EFRR with the closure of AMERA Egypt in late 2013. In relation to legal aid related to international protection, EFRR provides advice and representation to individuals undergoing registration, refugee status determination and referral for resettlement. In relation to psycho-social services, EFRR provides advice, counselling and case management for vulnerable refugees, including in particular children and youth and victims of sexual and gender based violence.
In addition to providing services to victims of rights violations, EFRR proactively engages with refugee communities in order to educate refugees about their rights and avenues for redress and to assist refugees and refugee communities in the development of strategies to minimize and mitigate violations of rights. As a result, we have deep and longstanding ties with all refugee communities in Egypt.