Friday, May 3, 2013

MFP Collaborates with Washington Law Schools

Georgetown Law students Nick Sheehan and Alex Shrank flank happy asylum awardee.

Marie became active in student politics when she was a student at the University at Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). She was concerned about the alarmingly high number of sexual assaults by soldiers on young women in the provinces, and in Kinshasa, the capital. The military heard about her activities, and one afternoon soldiers abducted her from her campus. She was handcuffed, blindfolded and brought to Camp Kokolo, on the outskirts of town. The next two weeks were a dark and brutally unforgettable part of Marie’s life. When she was released, she was warned by an army officer not to tell anyone about what had happened to her, or she would be killed. After Marie’s release, she got a job with an American relief non-Governmental Organization working in the DRC. However, she continued to be harassed by the military.  With the help of her employer, she was able to obtain a U.S. visa, and fled the DRC to the United States. 

Marie moved in with a relative in Baltimore, who brought her to the University of Maryland Law School Immigration Clinic to seek help in applying for asylum. Two bright and enthusiastic law students, and their supervisor, took on Marie’s case. They began to prepare the necessary documents to present a credible case before an immigration hearing showing that Marie risked torture, or worse, if she returned to the DRC. A crucial part of the application for asylum is a medical affidavit presenting a medical and psychological evaluation of her physical and psychological condition.  She was sent to the MFP Health Center for an extended interview and examination, which revealed that she had extensive physical and psychological evidence that she had been tortured. Three months later, following a superb presentation by the students, Marie was awarded asylum.

The MFP Health Center has worked closely with Immigration and Human Rights Clinics at the Law Schools at the University of Maryland, University of Baltimore, American University, and Georgetown University. Most recently, our physicians and nurses worked closely with two Georgetown Law Students, Alex Shrank and Nick Sheehan, who were able to obtain asylum for a young man who survived torture in a Central African country (see photo). We were pleased with Alex and Nick’s diligence and hard work in securing the hope of a new life for their client. The Law Schools in the Washington, DC area, through their Immigration and Human Rights Clinics, provide a valuable pro bono service for torture victims who are in considerable distress, and often without any resources. It is a valuable experience for the students, as well, who are enriched by their interaction with the asylum seekers. They are often courageous and highly ethical individuals who have risked a great deal to speak out for justice in their own country.