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Freshfields and Justice Centre Hong Kong upgrade award-winning ‘HK Asylum Guide’

Latest version of the downloadable guide incorporates additional language support, information on appeals to Hong Kong’s Torture Claims Appeal Board, and new integration with JCHK’s case management systems

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (‘Freshfields’) and Justice Centre Hong Kong (‘JCHK’) have released a major upgrade to their award-winning ‘HK Asylum Guide’ app and website.

First developed last year as a collaboration between Freshfields and its longstanding pro bono client JCHK, the guide was created to help asylum seekers in Hong Kong to understand their legal rights. From today, the guide will be available in French in addition to English, with new languages continuing to be added until the guide is available in all 11 of the languages most commonly spoken by JCHK’s clients. Recognising the value of this resource, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees – the UN body charged with protecting refugees worldwide – is contributing to the process by assisting with the translation of the information in the guide into a number of languages.

The scope of the guide has also been broadened to support JCHK clients appealing to the Torture Claims Appeal Board. While the original version supported those lodging first-instance asylum applications, applicants who are unsuccessful at first instance will likely go through the appeal process. Adding information for Torture Claim Appeals Board appellants makes the guide a ‘one stop shop’ for information on the whole process of seeking asylum under the Unified Screening Mechanism in Hong Kong.

Finally, the guide also incorporates a new ‘contact us’ function, enabling users to complete a simple electronic form that is then sent directly to JCHK’s case management database. This will speed up JCHK’s assessment of its clients’ needs, directly connecting asylum seekers who need legal, social welfare and/or mental health support to JCHK’s services team and improving efficiency of service delivery and response times.

“The original version of the app was a significant step forward for us and our clients when it was launched last year, but I’m delighted that we have now been able to expand it in a way that addresses even more of our clients’ needs,” said Lynette Nam, senior legal adviser and partnerships manager at JCHK. “I’m grateful to Freshfields for their continued support and look forward to continuing to work with them to enhance the app even further in the future.”

“The app was the result of a highly rewarding collaboration between our lawyers, innovation team, app designers, JCHK and its clients, leveraging our experience of building digital tools for clients,” said Georgia Dawson, Freshfields’ senior partner who spearheaded the original project during her tenure as Asia managing partner. “As that experience has grown, it became clear that there was significant potential to expand the functions and capabilities of the app in order to provide even better support to JCHK’s clients, who are often some of the most vulnerable members of the Hong Kong community. I’m very excited by the significant enhancements being built into this latest version, which I hope will make it an even more valuable tool.”

“The value of the ‘HK Asylum Guide’ quickly became clear after it was launched last year,” said Philip Thorpe, senior protection associate and officer-in-charge of the UNHCR sub-office in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. “Our existing resources and our unique insight into the needs of people fleeing persecution around the world meant that we were well-placed to help and very happy to do so when the JCHK approached us. Congratulations to the JCHK and Freshfields teams for reaching the latest milestone in this highly successful and worthwhile project.”


Notes for editors

About the ‘HK Asylum Guide’

Launched in December 2020, the HK Asylum Guide mobile and tablet application and its companion website are designed to help asylum seekers in Hong Kong to understand their legal rights. The app and website offer users a simple, step-by-step guide on the application process for ‘non-refoulement’ protection in Hong Kong. If granted, such protection means that authorities will not return an applicant to his or her country of origin. It is effectively the first step in a process that enables applicants to be referred to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for recognition as refugees and resettled in a third country. Without this protection, applicants may face torture, persecution or serious violations of fundamental human rights.

JCHK and Freshfields’ work to build the app was named the winning project in the ‘Social Justice’ category of the Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Asia-Pacific Awards 2021. To watch a short video on how the app is helping clients of Justice Centre Hong Kong, click here.

About Justice Centre Hong Kong

Justice Centre Hong Kong is a non-profit organisation focused on the promotion of human rights through our legal, psychosocial, research and policy work. We are committed to driving change for a just and fair society.

Founded in 2007 as Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre, and rebranded in 2014 as Justice Centre Hong Kong, we provide assistance to Hong Kong’s most vulnerable refugees, asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking and victims of forced labour. We now help over 300 people each year through our direct legal and welfare services and aim to benefit many more through our research and awareness raising work.

About Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP is a global elite law firm with a long-standing track record of successfully supporting the world's leading national and multinational corporations, financial institutions and governments on groundbreaking and business-critical mandates. Our 2,800-plus lawyers deliver results worldwide through our own offices and alongside leading local firms. Our commitment, local and multinational expertise, and business know-how means our clients rely on us when it matters most.