A global leader in the legal treatment and resettlement of the most vulnerable displaced people
The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) is the legal advocacy organization for refugees and displaced people in need of a safe place to call home. Over a short period of time, IRAP has emerged as a global leader in providing legal aid for refugees and changing federal and state policies through advocacy and impact litigation on behalf of refugees, even in an intensely challenging climate. Already, they have provided legal aid to 40,000 displaced people in more than 100 countries.
IRAP was selected for the 2021-2022 cohort of the Audacious Project to dramatically scale up their legal assistance program to help 2.5 million displaced people worldwide access pathways to safe resettlement. They will build out the world’s most robust and accessible virtual legal information platform for refugees, so that displaced people have access to legal tools to obtain safe haven no matter where they are located. They also seek to leverage the power of systemic advocacy and impact litigation to remove existing barriers and create more pathways to safety.
The backbone of IRAP’s work is its army of 6,300 attorneys and student volunteers who offer pro bono legal services for people fleeing from war, persecution, climate devastation and political upheaval around the world.
IRAP leads some of the most significant advocacy and litigation to protect refugees. IRAP helped shape the Biden administration’s initial executive order on refugee resettlement. IRAP also led a rapid response to provide information to Afghans whose lives were endangered by the withdrawal of US troops. IRAP’s advocacy helped to persuade the Biden administration and Congress to provide public assistance to arriving Afghans.
IRAP has made significant gains in reunifying separated family members, and in securing life-saving visas and legal protections for over 365,000 displaced people, and its courtroom wins stand to benefit 493,283 displaced people.
In 2021, IRAP launched the Climate Displacement Program to utilize existing legal pathways––and establish a new legal framework––to help climate-displaced people rebuild their lives with safety and dignity. IRAP is advocating for the use of asylum law and Temporary Protected Status for climate-displaced people. They are also leading a collaborative process in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Emerson Collective to develop legal protections for people in Central America and the Caribbean who are already experiencing, or will experience, displacement due to intensified climate impacts and who may seek shelter in the U.S. or other nearby countries.
IRAP has helped create bridges between the refugee and asylum fields and the larger immigration field, recognizing that refugees and asylum seekers are part of the broader category of people on the move and that refugee and asylum processes are part of the overarching immigration system.
Unbound has supported IRAP since 2014; its work advances our System priority area, specifically to preserve recent levels of refugee resettlement in the US, to prevent discrimination against eligible populations based on national origin and religion, and to build greater public support for refugee admissions.
It looked like I was stuck in a very well-dug hole that was so dark, that no matter how loud I screamed for help no one would help me [and] IRAP was the only one that came to help me.
Masooma Hussaini, Afghan fighter pilot who was targeted for being a woman in the Afghan military. IRAP helped both her and her sister reach safety in the U.S.
Leading the way in providing free, high-quality legal representation for the world’s most vulnerable displaced people, and leading impact litigation on their behalf
IRAP has provided legal aid to more than 40,000 clients from over 100 countries.
Photos shared with permission by IRAP
Photo 1: IRAP client Hameed Darweesh with Representatives Nadler and Velazques upon his release from detention at JFK airport following the Muslim ban executive order
Photo 2: The Ibrahim family during a consultation with an IRAP attorney prior to being resettled to Portland, Oregon.