CLEDU – Legal Clinics for Human Rights of the University of Palermo

Practice Aim

To raise public awareness on human rights issues, inform vulnerable social groups such as migrants about their rights and assist in court for free those who turn to them for help.

Target Groups

Indigents and marginalized persons, prisoners, migrants, Roma asylum seekers and refugees.

Legal Clinic for Human Rights of the University of Palermo
Legal Clinic for Human Rights of the University of Palermo (CLEDU)
Piazza Bologni, n.8, Palermo


CLEDU is a legal clinic of the Law Department of the University of Palermo, which started in 2015 as a project of the University of Palermo and Altro Diritto Sicilia organization and recently it became an association on its own. Students, volunteers, lawyers, trainee lawyers, university professors, researchers and PhD doctors participate on a voluntary basis. The team is composed of 12 tutors overseeing 2 students each (24 students usually in total), 2 university professors, 1 researcher and 2 PhD doctors (39 people, even though numbers may change, especially during the exams period). The organisation does not receive any funding yet, excluding a project which has been supported by Fondazione Charlemagne.
It works with asylum seekers who have just arrived in Italy, persons who need support to obtain or renew their residence permit, who are victims of discrimination, Roma families in the territory in their difficult procedures of regularisation of the legal position.

Target VG and type of host community

  • Highly Vulnerable Groups: indigents and marginalised persons, prisoners, migrants, Roma, asylum seekers and refugees, but also associations working for human rights and environment.
  • Hosting community: Law school students who aim to work with clients which belong to different vulnerable categories

Application setting: context

Migrants may encounter serious difficulties in accessing asylum proceedings, getting sufficient information on their right to request asylum, and finding legal support. They often suffer abuses from the administrative authorities, abuses that, most of the times, remain unchallenged.
The Legal Clinic for Human Rights of the University of Palermo works toward increasing the protection of migrants and asylum seekers’ rights. In this context law students offer free legal services to migrants on international protection and legalisation of legal status under the supervision of teachers, tutors and lawyers.
Within the framework of street-law projects, students provide information to people in need (such as prisoners, irregular migrants, etc.) regarding their rights and legal guarantees.
In addition to responding to the need for protection and access to the rights of marginalized or vulnerable individuals and groups, the CLEDU aims to support the work of existing actors, such as associations and law firms in the area, promoting a collaborative approach.


  • To raise awareness of human rights issues, inform vulnerable social groups such as migrants about their rights and assist in court for free those who turn to them for help.
  • To deepen the understanding of jurist’s role, promote a more proactive commitment.
  • To help vulnerable people and to act in the public interest
  • To adopt an interdisciplinary approach
  • To open to the external world by developing collaborations with subjects out of the academic world


The CLEDU aims to respond to the needs of protection of the human rights of foreign and Italian citizens in the following areas:

  • Right of asylum and reception systems (counter activities: preparation for the hearing and recourse against denials; training seminars),
  • Discrimination against migrants and minorities and reform proposals (training seminars, monitoring and research projects),
  • Entry, Stay and Social Rights (training seminars, research and counter activities),
  • Labour trafficking and exploitation (training seminars),
  • Unaccompanied Foreign Minors (training seminars).


Legal counselling for migrants and refugees (every Wednesday afternoon, i.e. helping migrants understand the procedures and find a free lawyer for the court if needed). Seminars and trainings on human rights. “Street Law” activity, consisting of learning by doing and teaching people (including migrants) some useful law procedures and terminology. They, also, provide students and operators with seminars and trainings on migration law in cooperation with relevant organizations.

Difficulties or constrains for its implementation

Clinical legal education in Italy is lacking institutionalization, therefore each project must find its own modus operandi and its peculiar solution in order to fit the official curricula.


  • The “Street Law” and the legal counselling are truly beneficial for migrants who can learn about their rights, the documents they need and be assisted by a lawyer in court or at the police station. In addition, this service gives them a reassurance on their status as citizens and gives them hope and confidence to live in their new society. Moreover, they train more new lawyers on migrants’ issues.
  • Legal clinics, through Public Interest Strategic Litigations, are able to produce effective changes in jurisprudential orientations and administrative practices (in particular, in those of the territorial Commissions), ultimately playing an important role in building a more supportive society. In fact, they often follow cases where crucial questions and problems concerning migration law come to the fore, thus stimulating the intervention of the courts on such matters and, at the same time, contributing «to strengthening and expanding justice education in general and social justice in particular (Spina 2018)”.
  • In Italy, clinical education is currently expanding, thanks to the creation of a national network that organizes educational events, encourages the exchange of experiences and promotes the creation of new programmes.


  • Lack of recognition and authority.
  • No definition of job professions: different profiles (researcher, lawyer, activist, etc.).
  • No financial support from Palermo university: it only provides administrative staff and classes. Searching for external funds requires specific human resources which are missing. Ad hoc solutions from the government would be needed.
  • The institutions and roles are often experienced as something rigid that is imposed on people, limiting them in their self-expression. A good practice however is the ability to rethink roles and institutions expanding their meanings and conferring to the subjects a greater capacity to take action.

Year and length (duration)

In Italy since 2009. In Palermo since 2015.

CRITERIA actors or stakeholder are using to assess them as a “good practice”

  • The movement for clinical legal education (it should be considered as a movement since not only it promotes specific actions but its members share a common vision) proves to be a good opportunity to improve human rights in Europe, through the training of a new generation of lawyers more socially conscious and more skilled in EU law. With few exceptions, the network among clinics is generally good.
  • Considered a good practice because it is a vital service offered for free, helping the migrants with any problem that they might have with the law and with their documents, which is one of their main concerns.
  • A good practice as it is capable of triggering a social mechanism that produces positive effects that mutually reinforce, in accordance with a win-win process. People often think that giving aid implies a sacrifice, that is by renouncing to something in order to offer it to someone else. However, it is possible “to receive by giving”, “to help ourselves helping others”. For example, in the case of legal clinics, the students develop better skills for their future job and life, just as they offer a valuable consultancy service or legal education to weaker sectors of society. Furthermore, the advantage is not just for students and clients. The whole community will benefit if we come to form a new generation of competent lawyers, with a heightened ethical sensitivity and a capacity for intercultural and interdisciplinary communication. These young people are in fact supposed to play the key functions of the rule of law, such as the legal profession, the judiciary, the politics and public administration.
  • Therefore, legal clinics have to be considered a best practice, because they expand the functions and meanings of Academia and the scholar profession in new ways: high culture comes down from its pedestal, opens its doors and starts to communicate and serve society.