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Recent Alum Fights for Refugee Rights

January 17, 2012

The University of San Francisco Center for Law and Global Justice is sponsoring a fellowship in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, this academic year in partnership with Asylum Access, an international nonprofit dedicated to refugee rights.

Ben Lewis '11 (middle) at Asylum Access in Tanzania.

As an Asylum Access fellow, Ben Lewis ’11 represents refugee clients, advocates before the Tanzanian government and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and helps build relationships with other refugee-rights organizations.

“The international legal issues that I confront daily are extremely complex and on the cutting edge of refugee and asylum law,” Lewis said. “Their outcomes are also of vital importance to my clients.”

One of Lewis’ clients is a Kenyan man who fled to Tanzania following Kenya’s 2008 post-election violence. More than 1,200 people were killed in the ethnic tensions that arose and approximately 350,000 were displaced. The client and his family have experienced beatings, imprisonment, and multiple attempts on their lives.

“The family made the brave decision to leave their country in search of refuge in Tanzania. But, upon arriving, they have been met with a political and legal regime stacked against them,” Lewis said. “Despite a…‘well-founded fear’ of persecution, the family’s application for asylum has been denied by the government and now they must make the difficult decision to flee elsewhere or to remain in Tanzania as illegal immigrants.”

Lewis is filing an appeal with the Tanzanian government and has sought financial, housing, and medical assistance on behalf of his client and family, who are unable to legally work, receive medical care, or attend school in Tanzania.

“I am confident that my USF legal education has prepared me well to meet this and future challenges,” he said.