Meet the chatbot helping refugees claim aslyum

DoNotPay - the so-called 'robot lawyer' is giving asylum seekers free legal aid

Meet the chatbot helping refugees claim aslyum

Image: Joshua Browder

The creator of a chatbot which overturned more than 160,000 parking fines is now using the bot to help refugees claim asylum.

The original DoNotPay, created by Stanford student Joshua Browder, describes itself as “the world’s first robot lawyer”, giving free legal aid to users through a simple-to-use chat interface.

The chatbot, using Facebook Messenger, can now help refugees fill in an immigration application in the US and Canada. For those in the UK, it helps them apply for asylum support.

It works by asking the user a series of questions, in order to determine which application the refugee needs to fill out and whether a refugee is eligible for asylum protection under international law.

The London-born developer worked with lawyers in each country, as well as speaking to asylum seekers whose applications have been successful.

Browder says it was crucial the questions were in plain English. “The language in these forms can be quite complicated,” he said.

These details are used to auto-fill an application form for either the US, Canada or the UK. “Once the form is sent off, the details are deleted from my end,” said Browder.

Speaking to the Guardian, Browder said: "I’ve been trying to launch this for about six months – I initially wanted to do it in the summer. But I wanted to make sure I got it right because it’s such a complicated issue. I kept showing it to lawyers throughout the process and I’d go back and tweak it.

"That took months and months of work, but we wanted to make sure it was right."

Image: Joshua Browder

Trump

Browder began working on this project before Donald Trump’s election as US president but he said he feels it’s more important now than ever.

“I wanted to add Canada at the last minute because of the changes in the political background in the US,” he said.

The next step is making the service available in more languages. Browder is currently working on translating it into Arabic.