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New York City Bar Justice Center

Advocating for Afghan refugees

For over a decade, Freshfields has collaborated with the New York City Bar Justice Center (“City Bar”) to represent over a dozen individuals seeking refuge in the United States. These individuals fled dangers in their home countries for a range of reasons, including sexual orientation, political beliefs, and sexual abuse.

Following the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, Freshfields began working with a number of Afghan clients seeking asylum.

One client, Mr. F, worked as an interpreter for the US military, providing essential translation services to US troops during their missions across Afghanistan. Because of this work, he and his family were repeatedly targeted, threatened, and attacked by the Taliban. As the Taliban regained power in 2021, Mr. F narrowly escaped Afghanistan—despite being shot by the Taliban while running towards a US base from which he could be evacuated, Mr. F kept running, documents in hand, until he reached US troops. He was evacuated and paroled into the United States shortly thereafter. Freshfields attorney Rebecca Berman worked with Mr. F to record what he had been through and the threats he faced, and navigated Mr. F through a difficult interview with USCIS, during which he was subjected to several hours of grueling questioning. Fortunately, USCIS granted Mr. F asylum, and he is now working and living happily in New York.

Another client, Mr. K, worked as a dispatcher for a company that escorted trucks to US military camps. He later worked as a US military interpreter before launching his own business. Even though Mr. K was no longer involved with the US or Afghan governments, he was repeatedly threatened by the Taliban, including by a relative who was a Taliban commander. After the Afghan government collapsed in 2021, Mr. K was evacuated and paroled into the United States. However, in the chaos of the evacuation, Mr. K lost all of his identification and work documents. Freshfields attorney Becky Lockert worked with Mr. K to gather affidavits and other alternative evidence to prove his story, even without his original documents. Mr. K sat through two USCIS interviews and was ultimately granted asylum. Mr. K is now living and working in a restaurant in New York City, where he lives with family. He looks forward to the day that more of his family can join him in safety in the United States.

In recognition of Freshfields’ work on matters assisting Afghan refugees, City Bar honored Freshfields for its asylum advocacy at its 2024 Annual Gala. Kurt Denk, City Bar’s Executive Director, remarked, “At a time of searing division globally, nationally and locally, Freshfields . . . stand[s] out as [a] true partner[]—having been the first to support the Justice Center’s expanded Afghan refugee assistance beginning in 2021.”

You can watch the video presented at the Awards below: