Our Model

The Evolution of IRAP

In 2008, five students founded IRAP as an extracurricular organization at Yale Law School: one was a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; another was a journalist who had reported from Iraq; three others had worked with refugees. Shortly after they launched IRAP, law student counterparts at New York University and U.C. Berkeley founded IRAP chapters. The law students realized the importance of engaging pro bono attorneys to provide direct legal representation to refugees overseas who had never before had access to counsel.

In 2010, IRAP joined the Urban Justice Center, a public interest organization that is home to ten New York-based legal service and systemic advocacy projects.

Since that time, IRAP has built an in-house staff based in New York and established offices in Jordan and Lebanon. Our network of legal representatives has also grown substantially: today, there are 29 IRAP chapters at law schools in the United States and Canada, supported in their work by over 75 international law firms and multinational corporations that provide pro bono assistance.

IRAP began by serving Iraqi refugees because of the clear obligations of Western countries, and the United States in particular, to provide relief to those who were unintended victims of the Iraq War. Since our inception, IRAP has expanded to assist refugees from Afghanistan, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Pakistan, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen.

In 2015, IRAP rebranded as the International Refugee Assistance Project to more accurately reflect the life-saving work we perform on behalf of vulnerable refugees around the world.

Student & Attorney Partnerships

What began at a single law school has since grown into a legal movement: a unique model of partnering law students with pro bono lawyers allows IRAP to leverage every $1 spent into $10 in legal aid.

IRAP utilizes in-kind, volunteer, and student resources to provide direct services to refugees and pursue systemic advocacy, all while maintaining very low overhead. Our 29 law school chapters partner with over 75 international law firms and multinational corporations, deploying teams of law students and lawyers to work on urgent refugee resettlement cases.

The model ensures high-quality case performance, engages top-tier firms and law schools in refugee advocacy, and trains the next generation of lawyers to become international human rights advocates.

In the Field

In recent years, the demand for IRAP’s services in the Middle East and North Africa has risen dramatically. A confluence of factors has fueled this: the rise of the Islamic State; the absence of durable solutions for refugees; growing frustration among local populations in countries of first asylum that have hosted Syrian, Iraqi, and other refugees for many years; and the deplorable conditions in which refugees live.

IRAP’s overseas field staff of lawyers, case managers, and interpreters works in cooperation with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international government organizations (IGOs), and governmental partners to address these factors and swiftly identify refugees in dire need of assistance. Our offices in Amman and Beirut are responsible for the intake and screening processes of our prospective clients, relationship-building with partner organizations, emergency response programming, and the expansion of IRAP’s geographical scope to work with the most at-risk refugee populations.

IRAP’s caseload expansion is frequently driven by the emerging needs of highly vulnerable populations in the countries in which we operate. Our presence on the ground, coupled with our legal expertise and knowledge of local cultural norms, uniquely positions us to respond to emerging crises effectively and in real time, whether it’s evacuating LGBTI individuals after a massacre or conducting massive outreach following a change in U.S. resettlement procedures.

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