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“Know your rights”, pro bono programme

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Published on Friday, 20 December 2019

Two current law students at the University of Luxembourg — Karlis Kaspars Olseika and Emanuel Kamura —had the opportunity to work pro bono as interns on a project called, “Know your rights”, with law firm DLA Piper. Here we let Emanuel, who participated in 2018 for the pilot edition, and Karlis who participated in 2019, tell us more about the experience. 

There is a beautiful, anonymous quote, “To be called a refugee is the opposite of an insult; it is a badge of strength, courage, and victory.” One programme that recognises this fact is the Luxembourg-based, “Know your rights”, which offers legal empowerment for applicants and beneficiaries of international protection in several fields such as: basic knowledge about asylum, contract law, the education system, health etc.  

Karlis Kaspars Olseika and Emanuel Kamura, University of Luxembourg law students

Law student Emanuel Kamura, was offered the change by DLA Piper to participate for the second year in, “Know your rights” , a pro bono programme for the legal empowerment of refugees and asylum seekers in Luxembourg.

They say that when you teach a man to fish, you feed him for his entire lifetime. Well when you empower a refugee to understand his/her own rights, you not only empower that person, but you empower that person to help many more people.

The nine-week programme aims to empower asylum seekers and refugees by increasing their core legal knowledge and associated soft skills. The firm provided weekly training on various legal issues and asylum seekers’ rights, to help attendees integrate better into society, become better advocates for their interests and pursue their professional and personal goals.

About his experience, University of Luxembourg law student, Emanuel says, “The programme allows refugees to acquire a certain amount of knowledge about their rights in a foreign country that is obviously not theirs.”

Emanuel asks that we try to imagine what it must be like for people who have come to Europe, who are not European born, nor European-raised to know all their rights. What is the situation of a person freshly landed in Europe? He asks that we try and imagine the naivety of those who are fresh from another continent, another culture, and who do not know a soul in their new country, who do not understand the language nor have any family or friends in an utterly foreign environment. When you consider this, you cannot help but comprehend the importance and necessity of the implementation of this project for these foreigners to support their integration into their host countries.

Emanuel speaks highly about the value of this opportunity. “As a refugee and beneficiary of international protection in Luxembourg, but at the same time as a law student at the University of Luxembourg, I had the chance and the immense privilege to coordinate the first edition of the present project. This not only helped to update me on the latest legislative provisions concerning all stages of the asylum procedure and the integration of refugees in Luxembourg, but also to share with the participants my experience as an applicant for international protection, and to detail my own personal efforts to integrate.”

Emanuel became aware of the project , “Know your rights”,  thanks to the refugee service set up by the University of Luxembourg ("Service des Études et de la Vie Étudiante" (SEVE)) and the choice as coordinator of the project from the law firm DLA PIPER within the framework of giving the opportunity to a refugee studying law or other disciplines to coordinate, to share their knowledge and direct experiences of being a refugee and having made a similar course for their integration in spite of the many various obstacles (administrative, legal, societal, cultural ... ...) encountered for the refugee before succeeding and finally achieve a successful integration in their host country, to be the link between the refugees participating in the project and the lawyers, but especially to be an asset, valuable help for lawyers, teachers who teach courses to refugee participants.

This year, it was Karlis Kaspars Olseika, Emanuel’s fellow law student who was involved in the project. He says, “The three months spent as a trainee at DLA PIPER for the coordination of the project have been very enriching and it has given me added-value in terms of professional experience because it allowed me to work in a large law firm while only being in a Bachelor's degree, without having any specific qualification in a field of professional specialisation in law.”

He continues, “I am aware that I’m privileged to have the chance to study and hopefully, one day, to practice law. Giving back to the community is one of our duties as future lawyers. The project “Know Your Rights” was my chance to do so. The courses taught by DLA Piper Lawyers were advanced and complete. At the end of the programme, the participants came out with new, useful knowledge. Our aim was to give them the keys and useful practical tips to succeed as much as possible in their new life. Now, I am curious to see all the wonderful things they will achieve.”

For more information regarding the opportunities within the University of Luxembourg, please send an email to refugees@uni.lu