What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?
The Association for Legal Intervention was established in May 2005 and divided into 4 sections: Foreigners Section, Family Section, Restorative Justice Section and “Freedom” Section. Our mission is to help anyone who is discriminated against and in threat of marginalisation by providing them with indispensable legal and social aid.
Since the very beginning we have been providing legal and integration assistance for foreigners, mainly for forced migrants: asylum seekers and refugees; after some time we started also a project providing assistance to all migrants in Poland. We represent them in the administration procedure, we help them in the official matters and in all kind of integration matters, i.e. getting jobs, finding flats, putting children in schools and kindergartens, etc. We intervene when the migrants’ rights are violated, we attempt to change discriminatory regulations or practices.
We understood very quickly that a legal or integration advice is not enough, especially at the beginning of migrant’s life in Poland. What they really need is to be accompanied by an open-minded person who could help not only as an ordinary interpreter but also as an intercultural interpreter and guide. We decided to extend our legal assistance and by the end of 2006 started to run a Volunteer Center.
Our volunteers accompany migrants as interpreters in all kind of situations, but most often during their medical visits. We decided to focus on interpretation services in hospitals because we noticed it was a gap of a big importance and completely ignored by the state. Refugees have in theory almost the same access to healthcare as nationals, but in practice very often the language barrier would turn the medical consultation useless or even led to a refusal to admit a migrant patient. Many forced migrants come from places affected by military conflicts, so majority of them need urgent and complex medical and psychological/psychiatric care. As the time of waiting for a specialist visit in Poland is very long, a failure to communicate with a doctor or to be admitted because of language barrier is additionally frustrating
Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.
Witold Klaus has established Poland’s first true legal resources centre, the Association for Legal Intervention (ALI) to systematically reduce discrimination against Poland’s marginalized groups.
Through the centre and their unique strategy, Witold and his associates not only offer legal counsel to individual disempowered clients, but also more importantly, build a body of needed interventions with administrators and bureaucrats within the law to change public and social
policy so that all people in Poland can enjoy full citizenship. Through its dozens of case studies and extensive research, ALI has developed a more comprehensive understanding of legal exclusion and discrimination in Poland, and is now helping coordinate the activities of various
institutions serving the same purpose so that together they can be more successful in eliminating the legal discrimination of disadvantaged groups.
How did you first hear about Changemakers?
Newsletter from Changemakers
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