Emergency Response Chatbots
The project in brief
The project is implemented by AsyLex in Switzerland for persons in Afghanistan and Ukraine. It began in August 2021 and in February 2022 is currently ongoing with no time limitation.
To promote legal empowerment and access to justice for asylum seekers, AsyLex initiated numerous emergency response projects, including the establishment of legal chatbots. These tools provide access to justice in emergency situations for people who do not have the financial means, the time, or the ability to travel to service providers, in order to receive legal assistance. Answers to specific questions can immediately be found online, with the option to request individual advice at the click of a mouse.
AsyLex aims to provide legal empowerment to refugees in emergency situations. Through the chatbots they have access to up-to-date information about important legal issues such as evacuation routes and the entry conditions to Switzerland and other (European) countries. In addition, through legal advisors, who can be reached via email and facebook, affected persons can also obtain legal help to individual questions.
Elements that facilitated the implementation of the project:
- Chatbot technologies: In order to provide access to information and to answer clients questions anywhere and at any time.
- Volunteering: Legal volunteers working remotely 24/7 to support refugees individually with legal aid.
Main activities of the Good Practice
Legal chatbots provide people in emergency conditions with information and legal advice about how they can be granted international protection. These chatbots are accessed via the AsyLex homepage.
Currently AsyLex has launched following chatbots:
- www.asylex.ch/afghanistan: Emergency Support Afghanistan: Within hours of the fall of Kabul, AsyLex created a chatbot in Farsi and English that guided thousands of people, and hundreds of individual questions were answered by the AsyLex emergency team. In addition, by setting up another chatbot (www.asylex.ch/hvtemplate) which automatically generated humanitarian visa applications, AsyLex helped hundreds of persons draft such applications directly from Afghanistan or the neighboring countries.
- www.asylex.ch/ukraine: Emergency Support Ukraine: Just a few hours after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, AsyLex launched a chatbot in English and Ukrainian to provide Ukrainian refugees with the latest legal information on the possibilities of leaving the country and the legal situation in various European countries.
In addition to chatbots, online legal advice on individual issues is being provided via a dedicated email address for this ([email protected], [email protected]) and experts which follow cases individually.
Bryter, as a full-stack development platform for legal, provided AsyLex with technical expertise and access to their modules for the chatbots creation.
PILnet, as a non-governmental organization that builds networks of public interest and lawyers, hosts AsyLex as awarded organization for the Ukraine emergency Chatbot.
What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?
Technological expertise was required to ensure functionality as intended with respect to usability, reliability, and data protection.
Translations were also needed, so that the chatbots were available in the native language of the persons affected from the Taliban take over in Afghanistan and the Russian invasion in Ukraine. Furthermore, the availability of a network of numerous volunteers remained absolutely necessary, in order to review and respond to individual claims.
On users’ side, language translation challenges (e.g. the HV tool being not available in Farsi or Dari, refugees had to use external translation tools such as deepl.com or Google Translate.
How they were overcome
IT volunteers were recruited and partnership with IT experts was established.
Results of the Good Practice
- To this day, 11’251 people used the Afghanistan chatbot.
- To this day, 1’462 people used the Afghanistan humanitarian visa template.
- To this day, 23’300 people used the Ukraine chatbot.
All these people received immediate legal assistance and learned about their rights and how to safely leave their respective country. This assistance was and continues to be provided during emergency situations, it is available for free to anyone with internet access, also for vulnerable people, minors, or people who were speaking only their native language (Farsi or Ukrainian).
In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
Our project eases the pressures on host countries by providing access to legal advice in emergency situations for people in need of protection, by orienting them about the legal situation in the host country, as well as other countries, and by informing them about their rights.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
Our project enhances refugee self-reliance, because we are supporting refugees in emergency situations, when they need to have up-to-date information about the legal situation in Switzerland and other countries. The chatbots help refugees find a safe way to leave their home country, and to know about their rights and other feasible solutions. They can receive the necessary information at the click of a mouse and gain the agency to help themselves. Our support is free of charge, available 24/7, easily accessible to anyone with internet access, regardless of age, gender, disability, provided in many different languages
Objective 3: Expand access to third-country solutions
With our project, we are able to provide information about the legal situation in different countries and connect asylum seekers with partner organisations abroad, so that they can explore any other solution or alternative beneficial for them.
We are considering launching new chatbots for further emergency situations (e.g. for Sudan, where a dedicated team as a specific contact point ([email protected]) has already been established).
Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?
We would like to widen our network to other organizations, with the purpose of:
- extending the scope of chatbot
- raising awareness and information about the technology
- receiving funding to sustain this project .
We would also like to underline that chatbot technology can be replicated by other organizations with their own content and for their own specific purposes. Furthermore, other organizations can also help AsyLex in the development of our chatbots through information sharing. This way chatbots will become a useful tool at the disposal of organizations that need to contact with refugees and communicate their inputs in a clear and efficient way.