By Nathan van der Raaij
A small group of Dutch law students have set up a special service to help foreigners who don’t have legal aid insurance to understand their rights as consumers, tenants, citizens and workers.
The students all have experience at working with the Rechtswinkel – a free service for low income people in Amsterdam who need help with legal matters. Most students are bilingual or fluent in foreign languages.
"Sometimes foreigners came to see us at the Rechtswinkel and I realised there is no low threshold help for expats and international workers," says founder Nathan van der Raaij. "Many people have no idea what their rights are, if for example they lose their mobile phone or if a landlord won’t pay back a deposit on a rental flat."
The students will also provide help with cancelling subscriptions, challenging incorrect bills, helping expats understand Dutch legal documents and with any other simple legal issue they might have. They will also make house calls outside office hours if necessary. "People have this idea that expats are rich but there are an awful lot of interns, international students and people working for start ups who don’t have much money and who often have legal problems," says the founder.
The service is not aiming to replace traditional law firms. "Of course, as we are students, we will always refer people with complicated immigration, employment and financial problems to law firms who specialise in expats," assures Van der Raaij. "But there are many small legal problems which we can help with. In addition, it is a great way for students to build up experience for the future."
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