Non-governmental counselling on the asylum procedure

A contribution to improving the rule of law, fairness, quality and efficiency of the asylum procedure.
Good Practices

Non-governmental counselling on the asylum procedure

A contribution to improving the rule of law, fairness, quality and efficiency of the asylum procedure.

The project in brief

The project is implemented by the Federal Association of Non-statutory Welfare Germany/ Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der freien Wohlfahrtspflege (BAGFW). It began in January 2023 and is currently ongoing. 

Asylum seekers are informed about their rights during the asylum procedure and receive individual support by qualified social workers. The target group is asylum seekers from the time of the asylum application until the legally binding decision on the asylum application.

All topics relating to the asylum procedure can be discussed within the framework of the counselling on the asylum procedure. A specific focus is the preparation for the asylum interview. Other tasks include counselling on rights and obligations during the asylum procedure and support in obtaining relevant documents. 

The counselling  always includes an individual legal assessment of the specific case of the person seeking advice according to the Legal Services Act. 

If refugees have access to independent, non-governmental asylum procedure counselling free of charge, this has a positive effect on the rule of law, fairness, quality and efficiency of the asylum procedure. Asylum procedure counselling supports the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in identifying people with special protection needs (e.g. traumatised, sick and disabled people).

Main activities of the Good Practice

  • Individual legal counselling of asylum seekers according to their individual situation

  • Support in contacting and dealing with German authorities related to the asylum procedure and health care providers

  • Referral counselling

  • Networking

  • Documentation of activities and impacts. 

The aim of the project is the implementation of a network of nationwide counselling centres that are easily accessible for all asylum seekers, with a focus on reception centres.

Elements which helped facilitate the implementation of the good practice

The principle of subsidiarity for social services in Germany and the German Legal Services Act (Rechtsdienstleistungsgesetz) permits non-lawyers to provide legal counselling under the condition, that they are trained and supervised by a lawyer. This enables asylum seekers to receive comprehensive counselling on their legal situation in relation to their specific needs. This is often the only option for legal advice, as the fees for legal services exceed the financial means of asylum seekers.

Before the introduction of asylum procedure counselling by the welfare organisations, individual counselling was provided by staff of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. However, this service did not include individual legal counselling. In practice, the counselling was not in great demand.

Partners involved

What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?


While we appreciate that the German Federal Government started to provide funding for the independent asylum counselling in 2023, we have to state that there is no sufficient funding in order to continue and develop the programme in a sufficient manner in 2024. Additionally, the nature of the funding is short-term and relatively uncertain, which is why local welfare organisations are reluctant to participate. 

In addition, problems arise due to the fact that no fixed time window is provided for counselling during the asylum procedure. Due to the rapid course of the procedure and regular transfers to other accommodation, asylum seekers are sometimes practically unable to take advantage of counselling.  

How they were overcome

Thus far, the challenges were not overcome.

Results of the Good Practice

  • More asylum seekers could receive qualified legal counselling on their asylum cases. This strengthened the rule of law for this vulnerable group of people. 
  • The counselling centres support the identification of special protection needs. They support those seeking advice to ensure that their needs are met accordingly.
  • People in need of protection were more likely to receive protection through official procedures.

In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?

Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance

Counselling provides asylum seekers with the information they need to conduct their proceedings independently and competently.

Next steps

It is expected that the project will be continued, at least for 2024. Due to the insufficient funding, it will not be possible to achieve nationwide expansion in the next years. The partners involved hope for an expansion of the funding to a degree which would allow all asylum seekers to receive counselling, when needed. 

Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?


Submitted by

Sophia Stockmann, Migration Policy Officer, German Caritas Association