April 7, 2017 — Hughes Hubbard won an important victory for pro bono client Mr. A and his family through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), obtaining a grant of asylum into Canada after a long and arduous process.
Mr. A, his wife and two young children fled to Iraq from Syria in 2012 after ISIS radicalized their community and after their neighbors subjected Mr. A and his family to religious persecution because Mr. A and his wife were in an interfaith marriage. Their interfaith marriage is interpreted by some in the region to be punishable by death under both their respective religions.
The matter was referred to HHR in November 2015 by the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). IRAP provides legal representation and other assistance to refugees seeking protection and resettlement to another country. IRAP, which has chapters at 25 law schools in the United States, gives law students an opportunity to work on substantive legal issues and gain valuable experience working with clients. In this instance, IRAP paired HHR attorney M. Shams Billah with three law students from the Fordham University School of Law to work on the matter.
The team prepared a detailed resettlement submission and delivered it to the UNHCR in May 2016. They then prepared the family for several rounds of interviews over the next few months with both the UNHCR and the Canadian government. Finally, last Christmas, the HHR-led team received an email from the family confirming that they had safely arrived in Winnipeg, Canada from Iraq. Despite colder weather, the family is safe and happy and expressed deep gratitude and appreciation to HHR.
M. Shams Billah, who has led the firm's efforts since the case was first referred in 2015, took on the matter as soon as he joined as a lateral finance associate in the New York office. Sarah Cave and Malik Havalic provided guidance and direction. The team also included Christina Dumitrescu, Laura Wooley and Shirin Dhanani from Fordham Law, Stephen Poellot, the Legal Director at IRAP, and Zeena Hassan, a resourceful volunteer interpreter.