The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have pledged to continue their partnership to provide free legal representation, assistance and counselling to refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless persons.
On Thursday, Chief Public Attorney Persida V. Rueda-Acosta and UNHCR Philippines Head of National Office Yasser Saad held a renewal signing of the memorandum of agreement to extend the partnership for two more years.
Since 2013, PAO has provided free legal assistance consisting of over 5,000 judicial and non-judicial services to refugees, asylum-seekers and persons at risk of statelessness from different parts of the Philippines, while UNHCR facilitated capacity building activities and provided technical assistance to PAO.
“I hope that we have not just succeeded in extending our legal and technical assistance to these displaced individuals, but have also won their hearts by making them feel the security and safety of a home,” Chief Acosta said.
“Rest assured, in line with President Duterte’s policy to accept displaced persons, the PAO – within the ambit of its mandate – is perpetually prepared to face the influx of refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless persons through its quality legal services and assistance,” she added.
“We are extremely grateful to PAO and its attorneys all over the Philippines,” said Saad. “Their invaluable work has helped thousands of vulnerable people to access legal solutions, bringing them one step closer to acquiring refugee status or confirmation of their nationality.”
The Republic of the Philippines is a state party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol and has a proud humanitarian tradition of welcoming refugees and asylum-seekers in the country. It is also a state party to the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons.
By providing free legal assistance to refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless persons, the Philippines upholds the legal standard of free access to the courts as enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1954 Convention on Statelessness.