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Steering Refugees toward a Safe Harbor

Olivia Kowey, Class of 2015

Olivia KoweyAs soon as her 1L year came to an end, Olivia Kowey boarded a flight to Israel, where she quickly put her budding legal knowledge to work through an internship with Amnesty International.

Kowey was thrilled for the chance to pursue her keen interest in human rights but horrified by the acute hardships that Eritrean nationals faced after being lost at sea and then rescued by Italian authorities, only to wind up as refugees in Tel Aviv.

“They have no rights in Israel,” Kowey said. “They were sent to detention camps with no legal status as refugees.”

As part of a lawsuit Amnesty International worked on involving 18 refugees, Kowey interviewed some of the plaintiffs and assembled their case files, all with the aim of finding a safe place for them to settle permanently.

The refugees’ case remained unresolved as Kowey returned to Philadelphia as the summer of 2013 came to an end.

Fortunately, Kowey has kept busy with the work she finds most gratifying, providing pro bono service to immigrants through the HIAS organization in Philadelphia.

Performing pro bono work with HIAS, Kowey’s tasks included writing a brief to support the efforts of a woman who hopes to remain in the U.S. to avoid domestic violence she would face if she returned to Mexico, where her former partner is a member of a drug cartel.

At the law school, Kowey said she thrives on taking courses with faculty like Professors Anil Kalhan and Pammela Saunders, who share her commitment to international human rights.

“I love the faculty and how everyone here tries to make sure you’re succeeding,” she said.