Good news: Free legal aid is a reality in 8 regions of Albania

I met Feride in Gjirokaster. 40-year-old Roma. Mother of four, two of them from a broken marriage. Suffering from mental illness. Unemployed. If I were to continue, I would have to add more to those lines. Feride is separated from her husband for five years but could not get a divorce because she could not afford a lawyer.

Feride sharing her story with the Free Legal Aid Team

I met Avni, a 32-year-old man, who could not get civil registration for his two children for several reasons. He had tried hard with no success for three years.

Avni attending one of the public awareness session on Free Legal Aid

I met Anila, facing property issues over her own house but that was unsettled because she could not afford or get legal aid.

Feride, Avni, Anila are not the only ones in Gjirokaster and across Albania. Many other people especially from low-income households, victims of domestic violence, trafficked women face similar challenges. And numbers of such people have been going up for years and years. COVID has only made things worse.

But “States bear the primary responsibility to fully realize the right to legal aid for any individual within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction. Beneficiaries of legal aid should include any person who encounters the law and does not have the means to pay for counsel”.

A couple from Pogradec seeking free legal aid

To respond to the increasing demand for legal aid as a human right, UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Justice and funding from the Government of Austria, through Austrian Development Cooperation, established 8 Free Legal Aid Centers across the country.

Happening in the context of “Expanding Free Legal Aid Services for Men and Women in Albania” project, vulnerable women and men are now finding free legal aid a tangible reality for them. Lawyers working at those centers receive tens and tens of people at those centers every day.

With facilitation of the Free Legal Aid Center, Feride is now getting divorced through mediation, a practice that parties in Albania still need to become familiar with it as an alternative to lengthy and costly court procedures. Lawyers of the center provided both primary and secondary legal aid and helped Feride, not only with the divorce procedure but also to solve the civil registration of her two youngest children through free legal representation, in her and her four children’s best interest.

Similarly, Avni and Anila and 22 other people are getting assistance to handle their legal matters.

The number of people seeking Free Legal Aid in the eight centers established across Albania is increasing by the day.

In the eight project-supported Free legal Aid centers, 2242 people such as the elderly, people with disabilities, Roma and Egyptians, members of the LGBTI community, returned migrants have received free legal aid in 2021 only.

If you live in one of the 8 regions — Shkodra, Lezha, Dibra, Durres, Fier, Vlora, Pogradec and Gjirokastra and are in need for free legal aid, do turn to these centers for help. They are there for you with a strong commitment to guaranteeing a human right.

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