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Field Work

Every year, IHRA and sister organizations coordinate a service trip to a foreign destination. To maximize the impact of these trips, IHRA provides three stages of support to its sister organizations:  (1) assistance with legal research in advance of the trip, (2) on-the-ground direct legal services during the trip, and (3) assistance with the presentation of legal arguments after the trip.  

2016 Pro-Bono Field Work: Greece | Human Trafficking & Refugee Rights

imageIn light of the current refugee crisis taking place across the region, this year IHRA will travel to Greece to address issues of human trafficking and refugee rights. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the number of refugees and migrants arriving in Greece continues to climb and is expected to reach the 400,000 mark shortly. Greece remains by far the largest single entry point for new sea arrivals in the Mediterranean, followed by Italy with 131,000 arrivals so far this year. The total is close to 530,000 of people having crossed the Mediterranean this year. UNHCR said that the continuing high rate of arrivals underlines the need for the fast implementation of Europe’s relocation programme, jointly with the establishment of robust facilities to receive, assist, register and screen all people arriving by sea. It is also concerned that the lack of reception capacity in Greece could seriously jeopardize the relocation programme agreed upon by the European Council, as eligible refugees have nowhere to stay while awaiting relocation. As we prepare to assist with the current crisis we will be publishing more details in the coming weeks.

If you are interested in partnering with IHRA in this venture, please contact our Fieldwork Coordinator, Maria Hera (

Past Pro-Bono Field Work:

2015: Human Trafficking, Immigration & Domestic Violence | Republic of Moldova

It is hard to imagine the hardship and terror of being a victim of human trafficking.  Men, women, and children from developing countries like Moldova flee home to escape domestic abuse, or seek work abroad to support their families and increase their quality of life.  Human traffickers feed on this desperation, promising their victims fair work in unfamiliar, distant countries.  But when the victims arrive and realize their vulnerability has been preyed on, it is often too late.  They are held in debt and physical bondage, abused, worked, and prostituted.  Those that escape are commonly not accepted back into their home communities.

The Republic of Moldova is a developing country fighting a battle against human trafficking.  With an average income per family of just over 2,000 U.S. dollars per year, Moldova is the poorest country in Europe. Because of an ongoing territorial conflict within the country, securing Moldova’s borders is extremely difficult, and victims of trafficking are moved both west into Europe and the United States, and east into the Ukraine, Turkey, Russia, and other wealthier states.  The U.S. Department of State has estimated that over 1% of Moldova’s labor immigrants are victims of human trafficking.  That amounts to roughly twenty-five thousand men, women, and child victims.

IHRA conducted fieldwork in Moldova this spring to offer support to NGOs that combat human trafficking and its root causes.  We provided trainings to organization leaders on rights owed to migrants in Moldova and on legal methods for immigration into the United States and European Union. 

Partner IGOs:  Civil Rights Defenders, U.S. Peace Corps Moldova, BOLD International Development Agency, U.S. Embassy in Moldova

Partner Moldovan NGOs: Anti-Trafficking in Persons, Promo-LEX, Lawyers for Human Rights, Centrul de Drept al Femeilor / Women’s Law Center, Informational and Legal centre “A priori”

2014: Statelessness, Migrant Workers’ Rights, and Environmental Issues | Costa Rica

IHRA volunteered with Centro de Derechos Sociales del Migrante (CENDEROS), a non-profit organization based in San Jose, Costa Rica that works to protect and ensure the fair treatment of Nicaraguan migrants, especially women and children. IRHA interviewed migrant workers and conducted research regarding employment rights and the issue of statelessness in Costa Rican law and international law. IRHA also visited the rainforest to foster an understanding of the threats to Costa Rica’s protected natural environment.

2013: Refugee Rights and Public Health | Ecuador

IHRA assisted the non-profit group Asylum Access in conducting refugee interviews, under the guidance of Professor Fernando Chang-Muy. The second part of the trip was spent among the Secoya community in the Amazon, where volunteers learned about the oil industry’s impact on toxic contamination, community health, and development. 

2011: Refugee Rights and Resettlement | Jordan

IHRA traveled to Amman, Jordan for ten days to aid Iraqi refugees seeking resettlement in the U.S. The trip included students from IHRA, the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, and the Penn Law Immigrant Rights Project.