“Working as a VLA has given me so many opportunities that are rarely available to first-year attorneys, and I believe that the breadth of experiences, skills, and perspectives I’ve acquired will serve me well in my future career. After meeting so many individuals for whom the notion of “international human rights” is not merely an academic ideal, but an actual legal foundation on which their survival depends, I am all the more energized to work in this field. At the end of my fellowship, I hope to find a job with an organization with a mission and philosophy similar to that of Asylum Access to continue this important work.”
– Ashley Connell, Volunteer Legal Advocate, Asylum Access Ecuador (March 2011)
We extend special thanks to the following former staff members, legal advocates and other volunteers for their support of our movement:
Jaime Sanz Gallego
“I can’t imagine a more rewarding experience that I have had in my first 6 months as a GULC-Yale Fellow at Asylum Access Ecuador. As the Legal Services Director, I worked with Rommel Vaca, an Ecuadorian attorney, to initiate a plan to expand both the type and the reach of our legal services. In the past six months, Asylum Access Ecuador has moved from providing primarily legal assistance in the refugee status determination (RSD) process to offering a wide range of legal services.
For example, our legal team recently represented a refugee in a binding mediation session in the Ministry of Labor, in which he won a USD1,200 settlement (4 months’ wages) from his former employer for illegally exploiting his uncertain migration status. Our needs-assessment also identified a significant dearth of services for refugee survivors of gender-based violence in Ecuador; we therefore developed a comprehensive protocol to provide legal assistance to survivors of gender-based violence to ensure their aggressors face justice, as well as establishing an emergency referral system for clients requiring psycho-social or victims’ protection services. We are also in the process of training 14 refugee leaders throughout the country to provide free paralegal services to their compatriots, allowing our work to have a multiplier effect in ensuring refugee rights are respected throughout Ecuador.
Professionally, my fellowship has been invaluable in allowing me to gain experience in direct and impact litigation, policy advocacy, strategic planning, and supervising a team of lawyers in an international setting. Personally, it has been a profoundly rewarding experience to help hundreds of refugees assert their basic rights and begin the process of rebuilding their lives after being forced to flee their country, while at the same time pushing the Ecuadorian government to live up to its claims to being a model country for refugee protection in the Global South. This fellowship has strengthened my resolve to dedicate my career to international human rights law, and has given me many of the skills I will need to make that goal a reality.”
– Daniel Berlin, Legal Services Director, Asylum Access Ecuador (April 2010)
When my parents fled from Sudan to Tanzania, they were accepted in Tanzania and received Tanzanian citizenship. This motivated me to give something back to the refugee community.
Before I started working here, I was so enthusiastic…but it was not as easy as I thought. What they taught us in school was not the same as it was on the ground. When I came here, I didn’t know anything about refugee law. I knew a little bit from school, but nothing in practice. The greatest challenge in asserting refugee rights in Tanzania is that Tanzanian Law doesn’t recognize a refugee who lives in town; they only recognize the refugees who live in the camps.
Through my work at Asylum Access Tanzania, I’ve learned how to represent clients and how to be patient with government officials. Working with other VLAs has shown me the diversity of people that live in other places. I’ve also learned that I’m lucky: there are so many things I take for granted that are so important for other people – everyday things – like meals and having a roof over my head. I’ve learned to appreciate life more.
– Nadhifa Mahmoud, Volunteer Legal Advocate, Asylum Access Tanzania (June 2012)
Do Im Park
Ally Basak Russell
Amit Kumar Singh
Karolien Van Teijlingen
Maria Agusta Torres
“I worked with both the legal and policy management team [at Asylum Access Thailand]. For the legal work, I was trained in international refugee law and UNHCR guidelines on refugee status determination. I sat in on client interviews and assisted with client files before handling my own cases and conducting my own interviews. I learnt a lot about drafting legal briefs, country of origin information and client statements.
I was provided with continuous support by Michael Timmins, our Legal Services Manager, as well as other volunteer legal assistants such as Alaine, Tong and Darshini. Michael was always available to answer my questions no matter how busy he was and I really appreciated that. I felt that I could ask him anything, even silly questions, as he was always eager to teach… Everyone I’ve worked with in the legal team is enthusiastic and passionate about their work. We all helped each other with every case and it felt like a family rather than an office.
As for the policy work, I helped draft a brochure and booklet on refugees in Thailand. It was challenging as I had limited experience in policy work. However, AAT’s Policy manager Myo Ghettalae, was very helpful and ensured that I understood what to do and got the help I needed. AAT Director Medhapan Sundaradeja also made sure I was happy with my work by arranging private meetings for updates and suggestions. I felt that I was taken very good care of and enjoyed every day of work there. I am proud to have worked for asylum access and would highly recommend the opportunity to anyone seeking work experience in the human rights field.”
– Vivien Dapp, Intern, Asylum Access Thailand (August 2011)