The law is a central tool in the protection of refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless persons, and others forcibly displaced and it is key in the search for solutions to their displacement. Yet, too often, refugee and other forcibly displaced communities – and those that work with and for them – lack the ability to access legal services to address their legal needs. Through the Global Refugee Forum (GRF) pledge, PILnet and a core group of organizations and individuals are working together to create greater access to justice for refugees and other forcibly displaced communities.
In December 2019 at the inaugural GRF, the global legal community came together to pledge to support efforts to protect and find solutions for refugees and others forcibly displaced. At that time, 28 law firms, bar associations, and corporations committed to provide over 127,000 pro bono hours a year and to work together and in solidarity with others, including 57 civil society organizations that also joined the pledge. At the heart of the GRF pledge is a commitment to initiate and engage in ongoing dialogue among these and other members of the global legal community to better leverage and increase resources to meet the diverse legal needs of refugees and others forcibly displaced.
Law Firms Commit Significant Pro Bono Support for Refugees
On October 28, 2020, PILnet, UNHCR, and core NGO partners supporting implementation of the pledge hosted a roundtable to connect law firms that signed the pledge with civil society organizations that work with and for displaced communities needing legal support. Fifty-five participants, including 46 lawyers representing 28 firms, came together to learn about and discuss 15 project pitches from 9 NGOs. The diverse projects included:
- “Know your rights” training for stateless persons in Cambodia,
- Support of a the development of an immigration detention working group in Hong Kong,
- Direct support with the legal incorporation of a refugee-led livelihood initiative in Indonesia,
- Organizational legal support for NGOs working with displaced communities in Indonesia,
- Multi-jurisdictional research on state-funded legal aid, banking solutions for forcibly displaced communities, and to support immigration law reform advocacy and strategic litigation around immigration detention.
Private sector lawyers from local and international firms, as well as in-house counsel, pledged support for the projects and matching is ongoing. Thus far, 14 law firms have been matched with 9 projects, but there remains space for further collaboration. To find out more about the role you and your organization can play, please visit us here or get in touch with us at HKprobono@pilnet.org.