May 15, 2019
By Julie Gersten
Recently, I was invited to travel to Lebanon with the International Refugee Assistance Project, an organization supported by Refugee Action Fund that provides legal advocacy for refugees and displaced people in need of a safe place to call home. The trip was designed to train law students and lawyers to do legal intake on Syrian refugees. IRAP is not only the first organization to provide direct legal services to refugees throughout the process of UNHCR registration, refugee status determination, protection, and resettlement; they also work with law schools and law firms to build the capacity and availability of lawyers to do this critical work. Here are some reflections from my experience.
Sitting on the airplane to Beirut, I tried to prepare myself for meeting refugee families whose lives are engulfed by hardship. I reviewed the 10-page legal intake form I received from the International Refugee Assistance Project. The questions go on and on, probing the most specific and personal details of people’s lives and their trauma.
Six days later, when I sat in a room across from a Syrian family desperate to resettle to a country where their son could get treatment for his serious medical condition, I was surprised to learn that neither of the parents could read.
March 13, 2019
By Badou Edgar Khan
I came to this country with just ten dollars in my pocket, worked hard, and climbed up the socio-economic ladder to build a meaningful life for my family.
This familiar ‘rags to riches’ story may be a bit cliché—and mostly on point—but I know, as an immigrant, that the experience of thriving within a new country is usually more complex, especially for refugees and forced migrants.
My name is Badou Edgar Khan. I was born in Liberia, West Africa. When I immigrated to the United States from Liberia in the 1980s, I left my family with the hope of advancing my education. My father, who worked for the Organization of African Unity (OAU) mission to the United Nations, had a plan to send me to high school in New York. He provided me $3,500 to subsidize my education, housing, and food. And when my father returned home after helping me get settled, I was fortunate to have a strong support system in my home country that brought me solace.
Then, everything changed. What started as a small uprising in Liberia became a full-fledged civil war. By July 1990, Charles Taylor and his rebel forces breached the capital Monrovia, my home town. I lost track of my family and my world began to unravel.