The pandemic caused by COVID-19 further aggravated the access to justice of citizens from vulnerable groups and the access to institutions, due to which more and more citizens turn to the associations for providing free legal and paralegal aid.
In the past 11 months, since the implementation of the project “Access to Justice for the Most Marginalized”, more than 1,000 citizens from vulnerable groups have turned to civil society organizations for legal and paralegal aid. Legal aid is provided by lawyers, while paralegal aid is provided in the field by paralegals who are part of the communities they represent and are trained and knowledgeable about providing assistance and counselling.
The HOPS – Healthy Life Options Association Skopje provides free legal and paralegal aid to sex workers, drug users, and their families. Since March 2020, HOPS has been the authorized association to provide primary free legal aid to all citizens, which, in addition to legal advice, allows them to apply for a free lawyer to the Ministry of Justice.
The Association for Legal Education and Transparency – Station P.E.T. from Prilep provided 752 services for families at social risk, persons from the Roma community and rural areas. The association provides legal guidance and assistance through its lawyers and paralegals who work on the territory of Prilep and the surrounding rural areas.
Citizens often seek legal assistance in the field of social protection, employment, housing and agriculture, while paralegals are sought in using the economic measures to deal with the crisis, education, health care, social protection and obtaining personal documentation.
473 services are provided to drug users, related to social protection and economic support measures for citizens, divorce, and suspension of legal remedies in court proceedings during a state of emergency, discrimination due to addiction, going out in a time of curfew, but also advice on misdemeanors and crimes. Sex workers were provided with legal aid in 1,571 cases, most often for protection from domestic violence, violence by clients or the police, divorce and parental rights, as well as for unregulated personal documents, economic measures to support citizens and the like.
The services are provided in full compliance with the protocols and measures are taken to protect citizens, lawyers and paralegals.
The project “Access to Justice for the Most Marginalized” is financially supported by the European Union, and implemented by the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia, HOPS- Healthy Life Options Association Skopje and the Association for Legal Education and Transparency – Station P.E.T. from Prilep.
—————————————————24 December 2020