Clinic Students’ Research on Migrants Aids UN Meeting in Geneva

Law School students at UN in Geneva

Third-year students Scott Harman-Heath, Genevieve Khuong, Clare Myers, Gabriela Wolk and CJ Spadaro traveled to Geneva to attend sessions of a U.N. committee on migrants. Photos courtesy of Gabriela Wolk

April 16, 2019

Students with the University of Virginia School of Law International Human Rights Clinic traveled to Geneva earlier this month to attend sessions of a United Nations committee on migrants, where they interacted with experts from around the world.

LL.M. student Cosi Piehler ’19 and third-year students Scott Harman-Heath, Genevieve Khuong, Clare Myers, CJ Spadaro and Gabriela Wolk researched issues related to the migration policies of three countries — Guatemala, Libya and Tajikistan — as part of a clinic project the students developed during the academic year.

The team presented their findings to the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of related U.N. human rights policies.

The students’ review included looking at the living conditions of migrants in each country, and related issues of safety and possible forced detention.

“The clinic’s research was utilized to help provide context of the migrant situation and formulate relevant questions that committee members presented to the country delegations,” said clinic director Camilo Sánchez.

Seeing the fruits of their labor play out in front of the actual committee members and delegates was gratifying, students said.

“Being there in person gave context to our work,” Myers said. “It was amazing to see that all the research we did back in Charlottesville could have a real impact on protecting the rights of migrant workers.”

Spadaro added, “When I started law school, I never would have thought I would be able to do meaningful work for a U.N. committee during my final year. I am grateful for the experience.”

Sánchez accompanied the students to Geneva. Piehler was not able to travel with the group.

  • Law school students surrounded by world flags

    International Human Rights Clinic students worked for 10 months with the U.N. committee on migrant workers and attended the 30th session in Geneva this month to share their findings for compliance meetings.

  • Law school students outside UN building in Geneva

    The students attended meetings for Guatemala, Libya and Tajikistan, countries the clinic studied that were scheduled to present reports on the status of their compliance with the convention on migrants.

  • Law school students at UN meeting

    The meetings consisted of a question-and-answer portion of each country delegation individually, seeking to find information about the migration policies and living conditions of migrant workers related to each country.

  • Law school students at UN meeting

    Clinic members had the opportunity to interact and meet with committee members before and after the sessions, including Orest Nowosad, chief of the Groups in Focus Section of the Human Rights Council, and Alvaro Botero Navarro, a rapporteur.

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