Blog: Refugees

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July 6, 2020

Amicus brief challenges public health asylum limits


Gerald L. Neuman, Co-Director of the Human Rights Program, joined immigration and refugee scholars during June in an amicus brief challenging the Trump Administration’s restriction of asylum procedures during the COVID-19 crisis. The brief supports plaintiffs’ emergency motion for a temporary restraining order to halt the removal of a child fleeing targeted violence in his home country of Honduras.

The Trump administration’s order relies on a broad interpretation of the Public Health Service Act, which allows the CDC to limit the “introduction” of individuals and goods to the U.S. In reality, the CDC order is a thinly-veiled attempt to further curb immigration, only applying to noncitizens (including unaccompanied children) who arrive at the southern and northern borders without documentation. Health experts have decried the order, citing the numerous exemptions as demonstrating that its purpose is to target a disfavored category rather than to protect public health.

“The administration is abusing the CDC to create a shadow deportation system that circumvents all legal limitations on deportation,” said Neuman.

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May 24, 2020

At Harvard, Niku Jafarnia J.D. / M.P.P. ’20 found a wealth of ways to advocate for refugees

Posted by Dana Walters

Niku Jafarnia sits on the steps of HLS
Credit: Kathleen Dooher

“I have always felt very strongly that I need to work against inequality and the forces that make it possible,” says Niku Jafarnia J.D./M.P.P. ’20. For her, draconian and difficult immigration systems that favor certain populations are key sources of the disparities she hopes to eliminate.

When President Donald Trump instituted the first of many travel bans that targeted Muslim-majority countries in 2017, Jafarnia was a first-year law student and she was furious. She had not yet entered the legal clinics that would become like a home to her at Harvard Law School. Still, she emailed Sabrineh Ardalan ’02 and Phil Torrey of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic, asking how she could fight back.

“Had I not been in law school when this happened, I would have felt at a loss with what to do,” she says.

At the airport, she stood with Ardalan and Torrey holding a sign offering legal assistance and translation services in Persian. No one took her up on the offer, but the moment stands out to her from the last four years of graduate school. From the energetic and welcoming response of HLS’s clinical faculty to finding a way to act, she had found a community and a path towards countering what she sees as oppression.

Jafarnia believes that she has been lucky. A constellation of factors, such as being born in the U.S., has provided her with a great amount of opportunity, she said. She is constantly tuned in to how she can use her privilege to dismantle the inequitable structures that cause harm to others. When her parents emigrated from Iran in 1977 to pursue graduate education, they did not necessarily expect to stay, she said, but the combination of the Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War kept them in the U.S. Throughout law school, she has focused on issues related to migration, driven by a deep connection to people whose stories feel so familiar.

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February 27, 2019

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.

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November 9, 2016

Joint report on Syrian refugees and documentation of legal status, identity, and family relationships in Jordan

Posted by Anna Crowe, Clinical Instructor

 

Anna Crowe, at right, presenting at the report launch in Jordan.

Anna Crowe, at right, presenting at the report launch in Jordan.

Today in Amman, Jordan, the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and the Norwegian Refugee Council Jordan launched Securing Status: Syrian refugees and the documentation of legal status, identity, and family relationships in Jordan, a 45-page report that details the challenges Syrian refugees living outside refugee camps encounter obtaining official documents from the Government of Jordan that allow them to access services, such as healthcare, as well as humanitarian assistance.

Nearly 80 per cent of the 655,000 Syrian refugees registered with United Nations’ refugee agency in Jordan live outside refugee camps, in Jordanian cities, towns, and rural areas. The report outlines official processes for refugees to obtain documentation, the challenges refugees encounter, and the consequences faced by those who lack documentation.

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November 5, 2015

Syrian Refugees and the Documentation of Births, Marriages and Deaths in Jordan


Yesterday, Anna Crowe, clinical advocacy fellow, and Danae Paterson, JD ’16, took part in a roundtable discussion in Amman, Jordan, on civil documentation – in this context, birth, marriage, and death registration – for Syrian refugees in Jordan.

A recent International Human Rights Clinic report, “Registering Rights,” examines the processes, challenges, and significance of civil documentation for Syrian refugees living outside camps in Jordan. Civil documentation plays a crucial role in securing legal identity within a society, helping to prevent statelessness, and protecting a range of human rights.

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October 27, 2015

TONIGHT: “Refugees and Crisis in Europe and the Americas”

October 27, 2015


“Refugees and Crisis in Europe and the Americas”


5:30- 7:00 p.m.
Milstein East A

As refugee flows out of the Middle East, Africa and Central America grab our attention, this panel explores the legal and normative frameworks that apply to refugees and their reception, and the inadequate government responses to the current crises. Panelists: Prof. Deborah Anker, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Harvard Law School Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program; Prof. Dr. Iris Goldner Lang, Fulbright Scholar and Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School; Prof. Gerald Neuman, the J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law Co-Director, Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School.


Sponsored by the Human Rights Program and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

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June 27, 2012

Human Rights and Climate Change: An Opinion Piece

Posted by Cara Solomon

At the request of the Yale Journal of International Law, Bonnie and Tyler wrote an opinion piece, “Human Rights and Climate Change Adaptation at the International Level”, which appeared yesterday as part of an online symposium. It responded to the new article “Avoiding Apartheid: Climate Change Adaptation and Human Rights Law,” written by Margaux Weiss (HLS ’08 and HRP graduate) and David Weiss. Here is an excerpt of Bonnie and Tyler’s piece:

“The issue of climate change refugees provides an excellent case study of how a human rights framework could work at the international level. Experts predict that climate change will lead to the migration of tens, and maybe hundreds, of millions of people, many of whom will cross national borders. [Hall and Weiss] note that recognition of climate change refugees is an example of “how human rights could begin to play a concrete role in climate negotiations,” but they do not explore the topic in depth. In “Confronting a Rising Tide: A Proposal for a Convention on Climate Change Refugees,” we lay out the components and negotiation process for a proposed instrument on climate change refugees. We also note that an integrated approach that blends efforts to mitigate and adapt is needed. The proposal draws on human rights for essential protections, assignment of state responsibility, and procedural elements.”

Bonnie and Tyler published “Confronting a Rising Tide” in the Harvard Environmental Law Review in 2009. They have both regularly supervised clinical projects on the intersection of human rights and the environment and co-teach a seminar on the topic.

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