Orrick is proud to be one of the founding firms of the recently launched Greece Collaborative pro bono project, alongside Dentons, Allen & Overy, White & Case and Ashurst. Legal Week recently profiled this project.
Orrick’s International Head of Pro Bono, Community and Sustainability Amy Grunske and Pro Bono Counsel Rene Kathawala helped lead the development of this unprecedented pro bono collaboration between the five firms and two NGOs, Refugee Legal Support and European Lawyers in Lesvos, to help with the current access to justice crisis for asylum seekers in Greece.
There are more than 75,000 asylum seekers in the country, most of them living in terrible conditions in refugee camps on the Greek islands and the mainland. The Greek legal aid system doesn’t have the capacity to reach, inform, advise and represent the majority of these asylum seekers.
The Greece Collaborative project is based on the island of Lesvos, where there are now over 9,000 asylum seekers in a camp built for 3,000. Each firm involved in the project has committed to £15,000 in funding and to sending a number of volunteer lawyers for a minimum of two weeks over the course of the next year to provide pro bono assistance and advice, particularly with first instance interviews and family reunification. Firm volunteer lawyers undergo intensive training before they fly out. While on the ground, they’re matched with an immigration specialist volunteer to work with, and are supervised by an experienced Greek lawyer.
“The level of need is truly overwhelming, and we were compelled to try to develop a pro bono project where we could help in some meaningful way,” said Amy. “Through the Greece Collaborative we are able to utilize the pro bono capacity of international law firms to increase the stretched capacity of expert legal NGOs already working there. By assisting these experts in the provision of legal information and assistance, our pro bono volunteers are able to use their legal skills to help protect human rights, support due process, and uphold the rule of law.”
Two of our associates, London-based managing associate Christina Hatinoglu and Milan-based associate Giuseppe Cuminetti, were among the first volunteers to travel to Lesvos to aid asylum-seekers. We have four other lawyers from our London, Düsseldorf and Geneva offices signed up for travel later in the year.