Four collaborative pro bono projects established to address the legal needs of Afghans

In times of recent crises, such as seen in the Mediterranean, Afghanistan or now Ukraine, members of the global legal community have come together in unprecedented ways to find innovative and collaborative public-private sector partnerships to increase access to legal information about rights and legal pathways to safety for those forcibly displaced.

For example, in response to Afghanistan, in the days after the Taliban took control, over 40 firms – many of which are GRF Legal Community Pledge members – joined forces through existing UK and Europe pro bono networks to establish a working group to collectively harness legal resources. This included developing partnerships with NGOs across Europe to strengthen access to legal assistance for Afghans seeking family reunification or other legal pathways. Four such projects were developed and launched in the first part of 2022. Further details about this collaborative pro bono projects, including contact details for Afghans seeking legal help, are provided below:

  • Germany: The Deutsches Bündnis für Afghanische Flüchtlinge (DBAF) project, launched in May 2022, is the newest collaborative project to offer pro bono legal support to Afghan refugees seeking resettlement in Europe following the Taliban insurgency in August 2021. DBAF is a collaboration between NGO International Rescue Committee (IRC) and international law firms Orrick, Morrison & Foerster, Hogan Lovells, Ashurst, Dentons, Allen & Overy, Clyde & Co, Osborne Clarke, Freshfields, and White & Case. As part of this project, volunteer lawyers from across these ten firms are trained and supervised by expert lawyers at IRC to work on family reunification applications and other legal pathways to Germany for Afghan individuals and families. Afghans seeking such advice can contact: [email protected].
  • United Kingdom: Afghan Pro Bono Initiative (APBI), launched in February 2022, sees NGOs Refugee Legal Support and Safe Passage partner with international law firms Orrick, Akin Gump, Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Clyde & Co, Debevoise & Plimpton, Eversheds Sutherland, Gibson Dunn, Hogan Lovells, Mayer Brown, Reed Smith, Ropes & Gray, and Skadden. Expert lawyers at Refugee Legal Support and Safe Passage train and supervise volunteer lawyers from across these 14 firms to deliver legal representation to ensure legal pathways for Afghans into the UK, including through the ARAP scheme and family reunion. Afghans seeking such advice can contact: [email protected].
  • France: The Alliance Française Pro Bono pour les Afghans (AFPBA) project, also launched in February 2022, is a collaboration between NGO Safe Passage and international law firms Orrick, DLA Piper, Allen & Overy, Reed Smith, Hogan Lovells, Clyde & Co, Skadden, Mayer Brown, White & Case, Shearman & Sterling, Dechert, and Squire Patton Boggs. In this project, volunteer lawyers from across these 12 firms are trained and supervised by expert lawyers at Safe Passage to work on humanitarian visa and family reunification applications for Afghan individuals and families seeking a legal pathway to France. Afghans seeking such advice can contact: [email protected].
  • Italy: The Collaborazione Italiana Pro Bono per I Rifugiati Afghani (CIPBRA) project, a collaboration between the NGO Coalizione Italiana per le Liberta e i diritti civili (CILD) and international law firms Orrick, Hogan Lovells, Dentons, and Linklaters, launched in March 2022. Expert lawyers at CILD provide training and supervision for volunteer lawyers from across these four firms to work on family reunification applications and other legal pathways to Italy for Afghan individuals and families. Afghans seeking such advice can contact: [email protected].

Building on the experience of establishing these and other collaborative refugee rights pro bono projects as well as lessons learned from the legal community’s responses to recent crises, similar private-public sector pro bono collaborative projects are also being established to address the legal needs of those forcibly displaced from Ukraine. In its role as the coordinator of the GRF Legal Community Pledge and a global leader in using law to protect the public interest, PILnet will continue to explore, highlight, and support these and other innovative ways for the law to be used to unlock rights and find solutions for those forcibly displaced around the world.