HRP Winter Term Fellow Niku Jafarnia JD/MPP’20 Reflects on Independent Clinical on OCP Blog

In Germany, Jafarnia met Isabel Schayani (left), a former Harvard John F. Kennedy Memorial Fellow who started a program within WDR (a German public-broadcasting news station) that provides refugees with critical programming and information about their legal rights in Farsi and Arabic.

A joint degree candidate at Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Niku Jafarnia JD/MPP’20 spent Winter Term 2019 in Germany conducting research on refugee rights as a Human Rights Program Winter Fellow. Having worked in the refugee legal advocacy space for years, Jafarnia wished to address the “lack of initiatives that include and train members of the refugee community to work as legal advocates for themselves.”

She spent multiple semesters in the International Human Rights Clinic and the Immigration and Refugee Clinic, in addition to interning at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Turkey in Summer 2017 as a Human Rights Program Summer Fellow, but in the last year, Jafarnia has been “explor[ing] the viability of an organization that would allow refugees to play a greater role in legal processes relevant to the refugee community.”

In a recent post for the OCP blog, she expands on what she found while examining comparative refugee programs:

“During my research, I was particularly struck by the divergences between the German and U.S. asylum and refugee systems. Though the German system has significant room for improvement—particularly as their efforts to deport and exclude refugees have increased—there was a certain humanity that I recognized in the system of services and in the government-provided provisions, educational opportunities, and shelters provided to refugees. This image presented a stark contrast with the U.S.’s increasingly militarized southern border and systematic imprisonment of migrants. Hopefully, countries will look to Germany’s inclusionary policies as an example, rather than replicating the U.S.’s administration’s efforts to demonize and dehumanize those who have come to the U.S. seeking refuge.”

Read more about Jafarnia’s experiences on the OCP blog.