“We got in touch with TrustLaw, Thomson Reuters Foundation to see how we can work together on training refugees and migrants and really connecting them to lawyers. Just training is not enough, we need to expand their networks and let them know there are people out there that are willing to help them besides NGOs like the IRC.” Oranutt Narapruet, International Rescue Committee
Across Thailand and in nine camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, 3 million refugees, displaced people and migrants from Myanmar are living in limbo, with limited access to basic education and healthcare. They are unsure of their right to work and stay in Thailand and reluctant to return home to uncertainty.
For over 30 years, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has been providing relief to these vulnerable populations in Thailand, supporting those most vulnerable to be safe, healthy and empowered to make decisions about their lives.
In 2017, through TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global probono legal programme, the IRC received legal assistance from the international law firm DLA Piper to research the rights of these refugees and migrant workers and prepare resources and training materials. In a pioneer project, DLA Piper lawyers then led workshops for refugees, migrant workers and IRC staff—empowering them with information on their legal rights and status.
Nicholas Patrick, the Pro Bono Partner at DLA Piper explained, “for us, one of the great things about this project was the opportunity to work with the IRC in Thailand and actually go into refugee camps to run workshops. I think that was a real life-changing experience for our lawyers who really wanted to find a way to contribute and give back to that community. And I think it was an exceptionally valuable opportunity as well for the refugees and asylum seekers who were able to come, not just to learn about their legal rights, but to also meet lawyers and business people from Thailand, and learn more about the community that they were coming into.”
These innovative workshops had a great impact on the migrants, refugees and IRC staff according to Oranutt Narapruet, IRC Thailand; “having those migrants be able to put up their hands and actually open up about what their challenges are and what their problems are in Thailand in accessing legal support and in not knowing what their rights are and going up to the lawyers to, you know, show them their paperwork. And saying, you know, 'what do I do about this?', was just really an amazing experience for all of us I think”.
Mohammed Rakinul Hakim a lawyer for DLA Piper who ran the workshops also enjoyed giving legal probono assistance, “I grew up seeing so much disparity amongst people, so many people that need help. I think TrustLaw and the IRC did an excellent job. We are very fortunate to be part of this project.”
International Rescue Committee (IRC),Thailand and DLA Piper have been nominated for the “Innovation Award” at the 2018 TrustLaw Awards.