Photo credit: War Child UK
NEARLY 4,000 PRO BONO HOURS VOLUNTEERED BY A&O TO SUPPORT DISPLACED PEOPLE AND MIGRANTS OVER THE PAST YEAR
RAISED FOR SYRIAN CHILD REFUGEES IN THE FIRST SIX MONTHS OF OUR PARTNERSHIP WITH WAR CHILD
Najwa was just eight years old when her family fled the conflict in Syria. “During a siege on our town, my dad went to get us some food,” she explains. “He didn’t make it back alive. That’s when my mother took us to Jordan.”
Najwa lives with her mother and siblings in the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan, home to 85,000 refugees. Along with nearly half of the 30,000 school-age children there, she doesn’t attend school. Instead, Najwa helps to look after her two brothers, who suffer from psychological trauma as a result of the war, and two of her young sistears, who have physical disabilities. “I thought, why go to school? But then War Child heard our story and came to see me and my siblings.”
Three months on, Najwa has completed one of War Child’s education programmes, which provide children with psychosocial support as well as lessons in reading, writing and maths. “I’ve made so many friends and learned so much,” Najwa says. “I’m now registered in a formal school in the camp and intend to keep attending. I want to be a painting teacher in the future.”
War Child is an international charity that provides education and protection services to support children affected by conflict. In November 2016, A&O began a two-year partnership focused on the charity’s Rescue Childhood programme. It aims to fund the creation of an education centre in the Emirati Camp – a newer refugee camp in the middle of the Jordanian desert.
A&O’s Managing Partner Andrew Ballheimer visited Emirati Camp in March 2017. “Around 8,000 people currently live in the camp,” he explains. “People come for the medical centre and vocational courses for adults. But it’s obvious there’s nothing for young children to do. Mothers want their children to learn, but there’s no one to teach them. Instead, children are helping to cook or playing in the dirt outside.”
A&O’s partnership will fund War Child’s facility in Emirati Camp to provide psychosocial support and education to 2,160 refugee children, many of who are severely traumatised, and nearly 200 parents and caregivers struggling to cope with their own experiences.
“We’ve had an incredible response to this partnership,” Andrew says. “We reached our fundraising target of GBP500,000 within six months and have funded the centre in Emirati Camp already. Construction is under way and War Child will start delivering services to children and parents in September.”
The war in Syria has forced 5.5 million people to leave the country, but it is only one of the causes contributing to the 65.6 million1 people displaced through persecution and conflict around the world today – the highest figure ever. In 2016 alone, 10 million people were newly displaced, more than half of whom are under 18.
“This gives you an idea of the huge numbers of people fleeing their homes worldwide,” says Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, UNHCR’s2 Representative to the UK. “And the problem is getting worse. Old conflicts, like in Afghanistan, remain unresolved and new conflicts erupt, such as in Syria and South Sudan, which makes it very hard for people to return home.
“This then funnels the growing issue of people-smuggling around the world, as there are virtually no legal and safe routes for refugees to leave countries. So desperate people put their lives at risk with smugglers.”
The future for displaced people is very uncertain.
Children taking part in activities in War Child’s safe space in the Za’atari Refugee Camp. Photo credit: War Child UK
“Family separation and integration within hosting societies are the biggest challenges refugees face. People need help with language, education and work.”
And this is where businesses can help. “The role of the private sector is more important than ever,” Gonzalo says. “Money is crucial, as governments simply cannot fund the humanitarian response on their own. But businesses have many other resources to offer, like providing job opportunities for refugees and offering safe resettlement routes through private sponsorship programmes.”
Kate Cavelle, A&O’s Head of Pro Bono and Community Investment, agrees: “We need to think longer term about our response to this crisis. Reacting in the immediate aftermath of a conflict or emergency is important, but many of these refugees are displaced for years – many can never go back at all.
“As a law firm, we’ve looked at how we can use our resources most effectively: from supporting asylum claims and asserting rights to citizenship, to providing access to education and employment. On top of our financial contributions, we’ve provided nearly 4,000 hours of pro bono support to displaced people over the past year and want to do more – this is the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time and it is only getting worse.”
1From the UN Refugee Agency: www.unhcr.org
2The UN Refugee Agency
A&O’s partnership will fund War Child’s facility in Emirati Camp to provide psychosocial support and education to 2,160 refugee children.
One of the most life-changing rights migrants can achieve is for their children to gain citizenship in their resettled country. The Children’s Pro Bono Legal Service, launched by A&O, DLA Piper and Coram Children’s Legal Centre, provides end-to-end representation for children who are entitled to British citizenship but without legal support cannot obtain it.
This is the first pro bono service to support some of the most marginalised children in the UK who, without citizenship, have no right to a passport or access to higher education and healthcare. Over 50 A&O lawyers have been trained and have so far obtained British citizenship for 20 children, with many more applications under way.
The clinic celebrated its second anniversary this year by winning the Legal Week Innovation Award for CSR Innovation and being Highly Commended in the Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Awards.
We have provided a paid internship to a young Syrian refugee lawyer in the Netherlands, and are actively involved with charities in the Czech Republic, Germany and Belgium that mobilise lawyers to help refugees and victims of trafficking. In the UK, we are providing an internship for a refugee in our Litigation practice and are working with the International Refugee Assistance Project and Micro Rainbow International supporting LGBT refugees. We have also conducted employability workshops for refugees and are working with Birkbeck College to give displaced people access to further education opportunities.
North, Central and South America
We work with five charities and non-profit organisations in the U.S. to support refugees fleeing violence and persecution with applications for asylum. Over 15 lawyers have been trained and taken on 15 cases in the past year. We have also been recognised by the New York City Bar Association for our work in Guatemala (carried out by a team from Spain and our co-operative firm Khoshaim & Associates in Saudi Arabia) to advise on rights for people who have been forcibly removed from their homes in a national park.
In Dubai, we partner with non-profit organisation START and across the region are setting up a START scholarship programme to support an orphan or refugee through higher education, providing financial support for the costs of university.
In Hong Kong and Thailand, we are providing pro bono and financial support to Liberty Asia on ‘Project Safe’ to protect child trafficking victims in Southeast Asia. And in Singapore, Indonesia and Hong Kong, we are supporting Justice Without Borders to achieve compensation for migrant victims of human trafficking and labour exploitation.
“As a law firm, we’ve looked at how we can use our resources most effectively: from supporting asylum claims and asserting rights to citizenship, to providing access to education and employment. On top of our financial contributions, we’ve provided nearly 4,000 hours of pro bono support to displaced people over the past year and want to do more.”
ALLEN & OVERY FOUNDATION GLOBAL GRANTS PROGRAMME
DONATED GBP50,000 TO UN REFUGEE AGENCY (UNHCR) AND THE BRITISH RED CROSS TO SUPPORT RELIEF EFFORTS FOR REFUGEES
PROVIDED OVER GBP30,000 TO REHABILITATE A SCHOOL IN SYRIA