International Refugee Assistance Project

International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)

The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) organizes law students and lawyers to develop and enforce a set of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced persons. Mobilizing direct legal aid, litigation, and systemic advocacy, IRAP serves the world’s most persecuted individuals and empowers the next generation of human rights leaders.

Since its founding in 2008, IRAP has provided legal aid to more than 37,000 individuals from over 100 countries and has trained over 2500 law students and lawyers in the process. Columbia Law School is one of IRAP’s 29 student chapters across the United States and Canada.

The Columbia Chapter

The Columbia Law School IRAP chapter works with pro bono attorneys, IRAP Headquarters, and IRAP chapters across the United States and Canada to advance legal pathways to safety for refugees and other displaced people. This can be by supporting casework, contributing to litigation matters, or working on policy advocacy projects. Through IRAP, students can develop legal research, client work, and client advocacy skills.

Through projects, casework, and trainings, CLS students have the opportunity to learn about refugee law and contribute to IRAP’s important work advocating for refugees and displaced people.


International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)

We have an “established placement” with SJI, meaning that the process is streamlined for students to submit their pro bono hours to SJI and have them approved by attorneys who work for IRAP. Pro bono projects vary based on IRAP’s needs, but examples include supporting a client with their naturalization application, conducting legal research on a litigation matter, and discrete semester-long casework.

The CLS IRAP chapter typically accepts applications only in the fall.

What skills do I need to have? Previous knowledge of the refugee resettlement process is NOT required. While we would love to have volunteers who speak foreign languages and/or have worked with refugees in the past, the only requirement that we have is that volunteers be communicative and committed to clients' well-being.

All volunteers whose applications are accepted must attend a training session at CLS or NYU in order to be staffed on a case. The dates for the annual trainings are released with the application each year.

For interested 1Ls, look for IRAP representatives at the block party in September! Otherwise, lookout for the email from SIRR announcing the application in September. 


IRAP holds mandatory virtual trainings for all types of pro bono work. In addition, IRAP Headquarters and the Columbia IRAP chapter host a variety of supplemental trainings throughout the year that are open to all IRAP student volunteers.

In addition to direct legal services, IRAP engages in systems change work to advocate for policies that benefit our clients and their communities. IRAP student volunteers can engage in policy work in the United States in a number of ways, including Advocacy Week, where students across IRAP’s network meet with their congressional representatives about issues related to IRAP’s work. Please contact the CLS IRAP coordinators for more details if you are interested.

IRAP provides a number of opportunities for student volunteers to learn more about refugee law, including trips (whether virtual or in person) to work with IRAP's offices in Amman, Jordan and Beirut, Lebanon each spring. For more information on IRAP's trips, please contact the CLS IRAP coordinators.