April 15, 2021

In ‘Baby Sham’ Case, Reed Smith weighs risks for a refugee family

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By Nell Gluckman, From The Am Law Daily

The firm won temporary visas for a Syrian baby and her mother to go to Spain for surgery, but the trip from Jordan could threaten the family’s resettlement to the U.S.

On this year’s World Refugee Day—Monday, June 20—there were 65 million displaced people, more than any other year in the past decade, according to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Several Am Law 100 firms have stepped up to help the growing group, of whom 3.2 million are in the process of seeking asylum, 40.8 million are displaced within their own countries, and 21.3 million have been forced from their home countries and are classified as refugees.
One of those refugees is a Syrian baby girl named Sham Aldaher, who was born in March with a disfigured face and only one eye. (Her struggle was recounted in The New York Times last week.) She’s among a group of about 30 refugees that Reed Smith is trying to help as part of a year-and-a-half old pro bono program focused on the Middle East.
The girl, who is called Baby Sham by the international team of at least 100 doctors, lawyers, embassy officials and others working on her case, needs an immediate emergency surgery or she risks permanent disfigurement. On Thursday, her lawyers at Reed Smith learned that they had cleared some bureaucratic hurdles to get Baby Sham and her mother medical visas to go Barcelona, where a children’s hospital will do the surgery for free.
But her journey is far from over.
“Her case, obviously, is extremely complex,” said Reed Smith pro bono counsel Jayne Fleming.
With help from the UNHCR office in Aman, Jordan, Baby Sham and her family were fast tracked for resettlement to the U.S. Only the baby and her mother are approved to go to Barcelona, however, potentially leaving behind the father and three other children. If the baby and her mother leave Jordan, their resettlement case could be terminated, and Jordan has a law that refugees can’t reenter the country once they exit.
“We’re right in the middle of this negotiation where we’re trying to allow Dad and the rest to go to Spain,” Fleming said Monday. The firm is also trying to ensure that the plan for U.S. resettlement is not derailed if the family goes to Barcelona.
While 23 Reed Smith lawyers have touched the case, there’s a core group of four or five who are working on it consistently and have weekly Skype conversations with the family.
“People want to help this family and this baby,” said Fleming, pictured right.
Reed Smith started working on refugee cases after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. In February 2015 Fleming traveled to Jordan to see how the firm could help there as millions of refugees flee the conflict in Iraq and Syria. Reed Smith now partners with a St. Paul, Minnesota-based nonprofit, The Center for Victims of Torture, on cases in Jordan and has expanded its efforts to Greece, Lebanon and Iraq.
For now, Fleming is hopeful that the whole Aldaher family will go to Barcelona for the surgery and go on from there to the U.S. But it could be some time before they know whether their resettlement case can proceed from Spain, so the firm may be taking a calculated risk in sending them out of Jordan.
The case underlines “the need for a unified approach in terms of protection in these vulnerable cases,” said Fleming. “For us, it illustrates how important it is for governments to cooperate.”
IMAGE: Sham Aldhaher, a Syrian child born last year without an eye who has received approval to receive emergency surgery in Spain. (Handout)
For more on this story go to: http://www.americanlawyer.com/id=1202760466894/In-Baby-Sham-Case-Reed-Smith-Weighs-Risks-for-a-Refugee-Family#ixzz4CDmTGyiB

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