Each year, less than 1% of asylum appeals brought before the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) are granted. An Eritrean refugee represented by Brooklyn Law students Lindsay Ryder ‘10 and Stephanie Staal ’10, was one of the lucky 1%. Based on the appellate brief researched and written by Staal and Ryder as part of a Directed Study program with the Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre (HKRAC), he was granted both asylum and international protection. HRAC was created in 2006 by Professor Stacy Caplow, in partnership with the University of Hong Kong. It is the city’s first legal clinic.
The HKRAC, under the stewardship of Executive Director Brian Barbour, who is a 2008 graduate of the Law School, and an alumnus of Professor Caplow’s Safe Harbor Project, is an NGO that trains volunteer lawyers, interpreters, and other NGOs in the protection and promotion of refugee rights and provides legal assistance for asylum-seekers who seek refugee status with the (UNHCR).
The six-student 3L Directed Study in International Refugee Law was taught by Professors Maryellen Fullterton, Stacy Caplow, and Reference Librarian and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Law, Jean Davis, the Law School’s expert in international research.
“This class is a hybrid between a clinic and a research class,” said Staal. “It’s sort of like a graduate seminar, and it was a terrific experience. Professor Davis gave us these incredible tutorials. It gives you a great grounding in researching international law.”
In addition to researching and writing appeals from the HKRAC docket, students also wrote country reports, researched asylum issues from a variety of legal jurisdictions, and wrote advisory memos on behalf of asylum seekers from such countries as Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt and Sudan. While most of the work was done with the assistance and guidance of their BLS professors, Staal and Ryder were also able to brainstorm via Skype with the lawyers at the HKRAC as to the best way to frame their legal arguments.
In a note to Professor Caplow Lindsay Ernst, the HKRAC supervising attorney wrote, “I cannot thank you and your students enough for all the great work you did on behalf of this client. I loved working with him and think he is an inspirational and incredibly kindhearted young man.”